Economists explore betting markets as prediction tools
During a highly charged week in Washington, D.C., last July, a research project sponsored by the Department of Defense sparked a furious outcry from prominent politicians and was then hastily axed by the Pentagon. The project, known as the Policy Analysis Market (PAM), was to have been a market in which participants could wager on Middle East events, say, the gross domestic product of Syria in coming years or the political instability of Iran. The project's developers, however, had made a public relations faux pas. On their Web site, they invited participants to suggest additional topics for markets and speculated that those suggestions might include terrorist attacks and political assassinations. Critics labeled the project a "terrorism futures market" and denounced it as morally repugnant and grotesque.
Within the week, John Poindexter, the official heading the office sponsoring the pro