Bryan Caplan  

The Center Will Hold: My 10:1 Bet Stands

Thinking on the Margin About W... More Data or Less?...
Despite much gruesome Schadenfreude on Twitter, I stand by the terms of my 10:1 bet that no European country that was not Communist in 1988 will have a civil war resulting in 10,000 or more fatalities by December 31, 2045.  While I am microscopically less sure than I was when I made the bet, I left myself a comfortable margin of error.  The dust will settle, and the center will hold.

If you think that makes me a dogmatic fool, accept my terms and await my inevitable impoverishment and humiliation.  And no, Francois Hollande's statement that "France is at war" doesn't prove me wrong.  I bet on numbers - not rhetoric - for a reason. 

I am markedly more worried that I will lose my related bet with Raphael Franck that "The total number of deaths in France from riots and terrorism will be less than 500 between May 28, 2008 and May 28, 2018."  But I still think my odds of winning are 80%, down from the 93% or so I initially believed.

I never mean to be insensitive, but if we abandon numeracy, the terrorists win.

COMMENTS (7 to date)
Shane L writes:

The Global Terrorism Database gather data on terrorist attacks going back to the 1970s. You can download their dataset and see how many deaths from terrorism occur in various years, countries, etc.

At first it looks bleak: deaths from terrorism have soared in the 2000s and 2010s. However the vast majority of these are in Africa, Middle East and South Asia. Deaths from terrorism in the 2010s are well down from the 1970s in Europe. (People presumably forget the really nasty nature of conflicts with nationalist and communist terrorist groups in 20th century Europe.) North America has very few terrorist fatalities, with September 11 2001 being a strange blip. So it seems that "Western" countries continue to enjoy relative security from terrorism compared with much of the rest of the world.

Dangerman writes:

This post emphasizes the sheer numeracy, which I appreciate.

It would be a shame to hit 10,000 deaths and then have to argue about, "well it's not a CIVIL war"...

Someone from the other side writes:

Maybe I am missing something but giving 10:1 odds für something you are 80% confident seems like basic numeracy fail

Someone from the other side writes:

Never mind I shouldn't post without enough sleep

David R. Henderson writes:

@Someone from the other side,
Maybe I am missing something but giving 10:1 odds für something you are 80% confident seems like basic numeracy fail
What you are missing is timing. Bryan was 93% confident when he made his bet and he’s 80% confident now. He does not renege on bets.

Chris Lemens writes:

As one of two takers of the 10:1 bet, I do not believe that the recent terrorist acts in Paris count towards the 10,000 under the terms of the bet. I imagine that the reason that you are marginally less certain of prevailing is the follow-on effects of those acts on the body politic of France and other countries.

bill writes:

Clarifying question. Would the 100+ deaths in France this month count toward the 10,000? Maybe yes if the 10,000 deaths were between Muslims and non-Muslims fighting them in some capacity, but not if other deaths later were along another disagreement axis/continuum?

Also, who is getting and who is giving the 10 to 1 odds? That is, am I betting $100 to win $10 or to win $1,000?

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