Betting your views, follow-up

My claims that you are not required to publicly bet your views have received enough denunciations (mostly commentators on other blogs) that I feel it is time to rub some salt into the open wounds. 

First, I have nothing against betting one's views and indeed I've done it with Bryan Caplan, though mostly for fun.  No one bets his or her views consistently, or that frequently relative to the number of views, so I am simply pointing out that a default of "no betting at all" is an OK point along that spectrum.  In fact it is a homage to the idea of division of labor.  Nor have I seen the critics publicly revealing their equity and other asset portfolios, the real bets which matter in financial terms.

More generally, we may wish that researchers express "real commitment" to their views.  I don't see betting as an essential part of such a commitment portfolio.  "Simply being a certain way" when it comes to inquiry is #1 on my list.  Having a good and deserved personal reputation for truth-seeking is another.  An emphasis on betting, in my view, represents an odd economistic view that commitments should be viewed essentially or primarily in monetary terms.  From a variety of other settings (try giving your wife "cash" for Valentine's Day) we know that signaling commitments through money can backfire.  Might that be the case here as well?

Doesn't the very offer to bet signal that your view is possibly based on private, not easily verified-in-public information?  Doesn't it signal a lack of confidence in the publicly available information itself?

If I think of the scientists who have influenced me most, or done the world the most good, very few of them were practitioners of public betting.  Furthermore that correlation is no accident (I would bet that most of them regarded, or would have regarded, the idea skeptically, or as a kind of public relations stunt).  You might think that is a market failure of some kind and maybe it is.  But in the meantime, if you do have a truly good idea, maybe the best course of action is to mimic the other holders of truly good ideas and that means not betting publicly on your idea.

I'm not suggesting that such a mimicry strategy is best with p = 1.0, only that it gives you one of a number of rationales for not betting at all.


Comments for this post are closed