If you want to know the likely outcome of the next general election or the Eurovision song contest, consult a bookmaker.
Bookies' odds have a long and honourable record of being ahead of the game, for good reason: they reflect the opinions of specialists and insiders who are prepared to back their views with hard cash.
Could the principle work for economic forecasting?
The Adam Smith Institute, in mischievous mode, has encouraged Paddy Power to open betting markets covering the rate of UK inflation and the rate of unemployment on 1 June 2015. It's 9-4 that CPI inflation will be 3.01%-4% and 5-2 that unemployment will still be in the 7%-8% range.
"The Bank of England's economic forecasts have been wrong again and again," says the thinktank. It wonders if the fabled "wisdom of crowds" can do better.
It's an eye-catching idea that relies on a crowd actually turning up to bet. In the case of the inflation rate, serious punters (or at least those in the City) may think there are already plenty of places to express a view, such as the futures market in interest rates.
A market for betting on the unemployment rate is more novel – and timely, given the Bank's new forward guidance regime.
The Adam Smith Institute is dreaming if it thinks the government would ever get rid of its experts and outsource its forecasts to "prediction markets". But the spice of competition is no bad thing. And, with the Bank's less than glorious recent record in forecasting, mischief-making should be welcomed.
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