The New York Times Should Run a Betting Market for New York Times Pundits

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The New York Times public editor thinks Nate Silver was wrong to offer a bet that his presidential forecast was right. Alex Tabarrok disagrees:

In fact, the NYTimes should require that Silver, and other pundits, bet their beliefs. Furthermore, to remove any possibility of manipulation, the NYTimes should escrow a portion of Silver’s salary in a blind trust bet. In other words, the NYTimes should bet a portion of Silver’s salary, at the odds implied by Silver’s model, randomly choosing which side of the bet to take, only revealing to Silver the bet and its outcome after the election is over. A blind trust bet creates incentives for Silver to be disinterested in the outcome but very interested in the accuracy of the forecast.

Overall, I am for betting because I am against bullshit. Bullshit is polluting our discourse and drowning the facts. A bet costs the bullshitter more than the non-bullshitter so the willingness to bet signals honest belief. A bet is a tax on bullshit; and it is a just tax, tribute paid by the bullshitters to those with genuine knowledge.

I guess that might work for guys like Silver, who put hard numbers to their forecasts, but how would it work for the less quantitative pundits, who just say stuff like “Obama can win if he makes the case for activist government in the closing weeks”? Beats me. Maybe the Times should require that all predictions be footnoted with clear conditions and firm odds, and then should open its own betting market, which would offer the chance to wager on every prediction made by any Times pundit. That might actually be fun. And if the Times rakes off a small piece for the house, it could even be a money spinner.

It might make it hard to find columnists, though. There probably aren’t very many bullshitters who would be happy to see their record of bullshit laid before the public quite so mercilessly.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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