Tue 6 Sep 2011
Lots of comments pouring in via twitter regarding my earlier post on development initiatives and markets. First, I found it interesting that readers went in two directions – they either took the post to be about prediction markets alone, or they caught the reference to hedge funds and realized that I was talking about “betting” in a much more general sense: that is, in the sense of hedge fund investment, which is really a set of (ideally) well-researched, carefully-hedged bets on the direction of particular stocks, commodities and sometimes whole segments of the market.
For now, let’s take up the issue of predictive markets. I love Bill Easterly’s response tweet, asking what development initiative I (or anyone else) would bet my own money on. I think prediction markets are interesting tools. They are hardly perfect, as like other markets they are subject to bubbles and manipulation, but there is some evidence to suggest that they do yield interesting information under the right conditions. It would be interesting to set up parallel prediction markets, and populate one with development professionals at agencies and NGOs, one with development academics, and one that blends the two, and then have them start to buy and sell the likelihood of success (as defined by the initiative, both in terms of outcomes and timeframe) for any number of development initiatives. While I doubt these parallel markets would move in lockstep, I wonder if they would come to radically different assessments of these initiatives. And we could examine how well they worked as predictive devices. I’m pretty sure most academics would have started shorting the Millennium Village Project at its inception (academic paper here) . . . so what things would the development blogosphere/twittersphere short today? What would you go long on (that is, what would you hold in the expectation it would meet expectations and rise in value)? Have at it in the comments . . .
I’ll address the wider meaning of “betting” that I was also aiming at later . . .