Bryan Caplan  

Ebola Bet Followup

How Economics Helps Us Underst... Progress on OTC Contraceptives...
I'm pleased by the high quality of comments on my Ebola bet, as well as the unusually high number of people willing to put their money where their mouth is.  First, the takers:

Troy Barry:
I'll take the bet (first form), not because I have any particular expertise or strong concern about ebola. (I do not believe closing US borders is justified by the threat, and wouldn't even if we knew 300 resultant deaths were a certainty.) But I am sceptical of some of the comforting assumptions of your mainstream scientists...

I acknowledge my reputation is insufficient to give you confidence in repayment, therefore I propose to transfer $100 to you on your acceptance. If you win the bet, you need never repay it. If you lose the bet you transfer me $251 in January 2018. (Or suggest your own estimate for the future value of the 2x$100 - which would be worth hearing in itself. :)
Troy's payment proposal seems fair enough to me.  Troy, please email me and I'll send you my address or Paypal info.

Mike Lorenz:

Bryan - I'll take that bet. Figure out a way to determine my reliability as a counterparty.

I hope you win.

I'm happy to offer you the same terms as Troy.  Is that amenable to you?

Next, the counter-offers:


I would take the bet with the proviso that it be cancelled in the event significant travel restrictions are imposed, since that would render the bet moot on settling the underlying policy question.

Can you propose a neutral measure of when travel restrictions become "significant," Mike?

James Miller:

You win $30 if by January 1, 2018 Ebola has killed less than ten thousand people in the United States. I win $3,000 if by January 1, 2018 Ebola has killed ten thousand or more people in the United States. To avoid bad publicity if I win pay the money to one of the top Givewell charities. If you win I will pay you directly. I offer you this bet for 48 hours.

I'll offer you $1000 against your $30, James.  Interested?

Last, what appears to be a hypothetical bet rather than an offer:

Lemmy caution:

The Ebola risk is a small risk of a high number of deaths.

Consider the bet

less than C number of Ebola deaths (x):

I pay you C-x

more than C number of deaths:

you pay me x-C

What C would you be willing to accept under these terms. My bet is that it would be pretty high. Who would risk their life savings?

This is a wonderfully creative offer.  If I were single I'd entertain it, and probably set C=1000 or so.  Being married, I'm not going to make an open-ended bet.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (11 to date)
AM writes:

On that last bet, why not counter-offer a cap on your loss? One creative thing about this bet, of course, is that if the number of deaths is close to C then no one wins much. This is great, as it feels unfair to lose just because the result is not a round number. This improvement still holds with the introduction of a cap.

Wesley writes:

Why are people giving their money away? Ebola deaths in USA will be maximum ten, if that high. Nearly all will be infected outside the country.

Bryan Caplan writes:

Wesley, you are free to offer my would-be partners better terms to reflect your confidence!

Granite26 writes:

I stand by my opinion that the death count will be higher because of knowingly admitted but well quarantined infected.

i.e. they won't infect anyone else, but they'll die here.

MikeDC writes:

Can you propose a neutral measure of when travel restrictions become "significant," Mike?

Oops, it appears we might be too late already:

The Obama administration will require all travelers from countries affected by the Ebola epidemic to arrive at one of five major U.S. airports in order to undergo a health screening, officials announced Tuesday.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) measure responds to lawmakers' calls for the government to take additional steps to ensure no one carries Ebola into the United States.

Still, I don't consider this "significant". In my mind "significant" would be a general ban on commercial incoming flights from countries designated not designated as ebola free by the WHO.


Peter Gerdes writes:

What area of the country do you live in again? Do any people you have frequent contact with (good friends, family members coworkers etc..) work in infectious medicine?

In other words to what extent are you insulated against risk here based on the probability of your death if you are incorrect.

Bryan Caplan writes:

@MikeDC - Your adjusted terms seem fair. Are you amenable to the Troy Barry deal where you pre-pay $100 and I pay you $251 (gross) if I lose?

James Miller writes:

Thanks for considering my bet and making a counter-offer but I decline your terms.

James Miller

MikeDC writes:

@ Bryan,

Accepted... I emailed you with details.

Arthur B. writes:

How much would you sell me a contract where you pay a $1 for every 300 US victims of Ebola by the end of 2015?

Ebola's about the E, not the p.

Jamie writes:

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