Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Gambling with the Future: America's Political Orthodoxy Demands a Free Market for Everything except New Ideas

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Gambling with the Future: America's Political Orthodoxy Demands a Free Market for Everything except New Ideas

Article excerpt

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GOOD, CLEAN PROFIT-TAKING WAS ruined last July by the biased left-wing media when it reported on the impending opening of the Policy

Analysis Market, essentially a futures market on terror. PAM's opening bell was supposed to have sounded this month, but the idea proved so plainly and immediately repugnant, members of the Bush administration quickly bum-rushed poor PAM out the door.

PAM was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an obscure Washington agency that provided a brief sanctuary to pipe-smoking, political Lazarus Admiral John Poindexter. His previous big idea for DARPA was the paranoia-inducing Total Information Awareness System--an effort to review all electronic and paper communication in the nation. Think "Little Brother."

This time the gang in Poindexter's ideology lab carne up with a program clinically cold-blooded in its strategic goals and merely morally repulsive in all other respects: PAM would have organized speculators with extra capital not already gainfully invested in oil, defense, or Third World apparel production into a gambling den focused on Middle Eastern events: assassinations, political upheavals, military turnabouts--you get the idea. It was a futures market for mayhem, and your tax dollars--$8 million of them--were earmarked to set it up as a small mind game in the war on terror.

Poindexter and crew believed that just as the commodities futures market predicts the cost of a barrel of oil and allows industry to prepare for price mores, PAM could help U.S. defense planners prepare for impending terrorist strikes by tracking "market predictions" of such events. But when news of the terror market leaked out, most normal people went into jaw-dropped moral-shock mode. Whatever PAM's dubious strategic value, the image of a group of cigar-chomping fat-cats wagering on next week's bloodiest headlines should have made PAM a self-evident nonstarter.

What is most interesting about this stillborn program, however, is not its amoral audacity or its astonishing indifference to simple decency but its testimony to the lock-grip the free market has over Washington's political imagination. From trade, health care, Social Security, and now defense policy, neo-conservatives so worship the omniscience of the free market that, confronted with any social or political difficulty, their first impulse appears to be to find some way to construct a market around it. …

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