If someone bet you $10,000 that a brick would not be thrown through your neighbor's front window this weekend, what would you do?
Me, I'd offer my neighbor $1,000 plus repair expenses to let me heave a brick through his window. I'm sure there are plenty of others who wouldn't ask permission.
What if a group of investors were to bet all comers a few million dollars that a particular Mideast government would not fall, or a particular political leader would not be assassinated, within a few months or a year? Wouldn't that be tantamount to offering a bounty?
But that's just the kind of bet that DARPA, The Economist, and Net Exchange are planning to broker. Starting August 1, they're signing up investors in a "futures market" on terror. An Associated Press report says:
The market would work this way. Investors would buy and sell futures contracts — essentially a series of predictions about what they believe might happen in the Mideast. Holder of a futures contract that came true would collect the proceeds of investors who put money into the market but predicted wrong.
A graphic on the market's Web page showed hypothetical futures contracts in which investors could trade on the likelihood that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would be assassinated or Jordanian King Abdullah II would be overthrown....
Traders who believe an event will occur can buy a futures contract. Those who believe the event is unlikely can try to sell a contract.
So, of course, can those who believe the event is worth a price.
Best of all (from their point of view), the "investors" would be anonymous. Terrorism for hire, with anonymity and deniability for those doing the hiring.
If this were fiction, nobody would publish it; it's too outrageous to be believed, and too stupid to be seriously proposed. Oh, wait--this is the Bush League's America; nothing is too outrageous or too stupid.
Having already spent over half a million dollars on this program, says the AP, the Pentagon has asked for another $3 million next year and $5 million in 2005. And they'll get it, if the House of Representatives has their way.