Tom W. Bell


This paper describes how prediction markets can make governments smarter, cheaper, and more responsive to changing conditions. A prediction market resembles a stock exchange where traders buy and sell not shares of companies, but claims about various future events. Academic and commercial use of prediction markets indicates that they offer a useful tool for encouraging, collecting, and quantifying widely scattered expertise. Government administrators have begun experimenting with prediction markets, too. Many questions remain, however, about the proper way to implement government prediction markets. This paper opens with a brief survey of the costs and benefits of government prediction markets. It then turns to ironing out the statutory and regulatory wrinkles occasioned by government prediction markets in general, and by federal executive prediction markets in particular. The paper begins by asking who should run government prediction markets and who should trade on them. The short answers: Government agencies should outsource the provision of prediction markets and let employees and outside contractors trade on them. The paper then turns to mitigating the legal risks raised by government prediction markets-especially those offering cash or other valuable consideration-and advocates such prophylactics as hosting spot transactions in negotiable conditional notes, offering traders seed funding, and contractually mandating a minimum level of trading. The paper concludes by describing a three-step plan for putting prediction markets to work for the United States government and, through it, the People.



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