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Opinion

Killer futures die a death

Donald Rumsfeld: some of the secretary of defence's subordinates seem uncertain about their evil adversary's location

It will go down as one of the most short-lived trading venues ever. It had been in development for months, and its owners claim to have spent $600,000 setting it up. Yet within 24 hours of becoming public knowledge it was killed off. Goodbye, and good riddance, to the Policy Analysis Market (PAM). The brainchild of the Defense Research Projects agency (Darpa), an arm of the US Department of Defense, it aimed to trade futures contracts to enable bets on certain events taking place in the Middle East. Examples included the assassination of Yasir Arafat and the overthrow of Jordan's monarchy. The website even floated the idea of a nuclear attack by that evil Middle Eastern power North Korea.

There's nothing new about the concept: the Iowa Electronic Markets have operated since 1995. They are best known for their US presidential and congressional elections futures contracts. And earlier this year Ireland-based TradeSports set up a futures contract on whether and when Saddam Hussein might be overthrown.

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