Bryan Caplan  

The Bettor's Oath

Curley Effect in California... Gray on Haidt...
Another great thing about my new daughter: she got me to start watching Game of Thrones.  The first episode didn't hook me last year, but now I can't stop thinking about the show.  I've even been inspired by the Night's Watch Oath to write an oath of my own.  Here goes:

The Bettor's Oath

Blathering talk surrounds us, but I will take no part in it.  My word is my bet; I will always put my money where my mouth is.  When challenged, I will bet on my words, refine them, or recant.  When no one is present to challenge me, I will weigh my words and thoughts as if my fellow oath-takers were listening. 

I will make both conditional and unconditional bets, and assign probabilities whenever asked.  I will claim no false certainty; unless I will stake my life on my belief, I am not truly certain - and will admit it. 

When I lose a bet, I will admit defeat, pay promptly, and hold my tongue - never protesting that I was "really right."  If I have caveats or reservations, I will declare them when I make the bet - not after I lose it. 

When I win a bet, I will not shame my opponent, for a betting loser has far more honor than the mass of men who live by loose and idle talk.  I pledge my mind and words to the bettor's oath, for this day and all the days to come... 

Unless something in this oath turns out to be wrong, an eventuality to which I assign a 3% probability.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (11 to date)
Saturos writes:

I sign: Saturos

John Palmer writes:

This is a fantastic statement. And I burst into laughter when I read the last sentence! Thank you!

Matt C writes:

Great punch line.

Seth writes:

I hope you never find yourself in a bureaucracy.

Michael Wiebe writes:

If you're looking for other diversions, I strongly recommend Eliezer Yudkowsky's Harry Potter fanfiction: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Philo writes:

“I will always put my money where my mouth is.” This is dangerous, because—even though I rightly have opinions on many subjects--there is almost always *somebody* who knows more about a given subject than I do. By offering to bet, I run the risk that it will be mainly these savants who take me up on my offers, regarding precisely those opinions of mine that they know to be wrong, and so I will lose a lot of money. Of course, I try to avoid this by finding out *in advance* what are the opinions of the most knowledgeable people, but it is easy miss out some experts, especially if they are not very vocal.

True, I can *hope* that most of those who bet with me will know less than I about the topics in question, but why should I be confident of this *a priori*?

(I suppose one could view one's betting losses as a cost of his *education*.)

Seth writes:

Philo - I think you missed the point.

Putting your money where your math is isn't dangerous if you don't put your mouth where you aren't confident enough to bet against the savants.

That rule will cut down on your contribution to, as Bryan calls it, 'blathering talk.'

SheetWise writes:

Unless something in this oath turns out to be wrong, an eventuality to which I assign a 3% probability.

So ... will you give me 32:1?

Philo writes:

Aside: a lot of one's most important opinions are counterfactuals, which usually will not be tested directly, and so cannot be bet on effectively. One can bet on whether, if A were to happen, B would happen, but when A does *not* happen the bet is simply *off*.

rpl writes:


If your bettor's oath were to become widespread, what is to prevent a bettor who is very knowledgeable about a subject from sandbagging by deliberately making specious-sounding arguments in the hope of enticing someone to bet against him? Wouldn't this lower the quality of the discourse, since some people would use misdirection to preserve their betting advantage? Should the bettor's oath include a proscription on such behavior?

A.West writes:

Did you just read "Red Blooded Risk" by Aaron Brown? Seems to be the oath he lives by, and suggests for others, especially his employees in financial risk control.

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