Betting on Conspiracies?
Was 9/11 an inside job? Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? Was the U.S. presidential election of 2020 stolen? I propose a Conspiracy Theory Betting Market to resolve these questions. That is, instead of trying to censor social media platforms or otherwise suppress the spread of conspiracy theories, why not allow such theories to flourish and invite people to bet on them? Among other things, an open betting market in "fake news" and conspiracy theories would aggregate disparate sources of information (cf. Hayek), provide financial and reputational incentives to place winning bets (cf. Tetlock), and scale well with the number of people and opinions. How would this "retrodiction" market work? People would buy or sell "conspiracy theory contracts," and each contract would be structured as a simple yes/no question (e.g. Did Oswald act alone?) and would settle to some sum if one's answer turned out to be right; 0 otherwise. To resolve these contracts, this market could fund special-purpose “conspiracy-theory courts,” which could hold open hearings and allow anyone to make arguments or present evidence. Using the preponderance of the evidence standard that is routinely used in civil cases, the court would then decide whether a given conspiracy theory (e.g. JFK, 9/11, 2020 election) satisfies the well-established elements of conspiracy law.