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Tradesports and the election

I've been following Tradesports ever since they offered wagering options on Saddam Hussein being toppled from power. This is the first presidential election they have written contracts for. There haven't been too many surprises, although there are suggestions that a nut job or someone with money to burn has attempted to manipulate this particular market.

Be that as it may, here is one contract that was just brought to my attention, and the current prices:

2004 Presidential Election is Certified on or before Dec 13 2004

Bid: 79.5

Ask: 86.0

Last: 88.0

I presume that December 13 was chosen because that is the normal date for certification. Now, as an optimist, I think this is a profit opportunity. But as a citizen, and an economist who understands that these prices are generally close to true probabilities, I think this is a disaster. Now, the bid-ask spread is big, but nevertheless these prices imply there is a 15-20% chance that lawsuits and the like are going to gum up this election. That is a magnitude which I find utterly unacceptable for a civilized country.

Update: Dahlia Lithwick puts a positive spin on the lawyering that went on during this election.

The real reason Ohio didn't become Florida isn't just that Kerry lost the popular vote, unlike Gore four years ago, or that the margins were too close to beat. The reason was that much maligned lawyers all around the country did their jobs. There's a reason we all talk trash about ambulance chasers, yet would never dream of buying a house, or writing a will, without an attorney: Lawyers are troubleshooters and problem-solvers, sherpas through ambiguous terrain. This election they did precisely what they were meant to do: learned from the last time, monitored the rough patches, interceded in the close cases, and backed off when it became irrelevant. The law, at its best, anticipates trouble and builds systems to protect against it. That is what John Kerry recognized this morning, and we are all better off for it.

Amen, sister.