These days, the website PredictIt is about the only place to go for unfiltered opinions of everyday Americans speculating on the future of U.S. politics. PredictIt users have registered their collective opinion that Joe Biden has only a 20 percent chance of being reelected in 2024—a staggeringly low number for a president who’s barely a year and a half into his term.
Naturally, the Biden Administration wants to shut it down.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), headed by Biden appointee Rostin Behnam, has decreed that PredictIt must cease operations by February 15, 2023. The reason is unclear. The CFTC’s Division of Market Oversight (DMO) explains PredictIt “has not operated its market in compliance with the terms of the letter” that authorized its operation. As a result, the DMO has withdrawn its authorization. And that’s it. That’s all the agency thinks Americans need to know.
For its part, PredictIt “maintains that all open markets are within the terms of the . . . letter.”
PredictIt lets everyone see what everyday Americans, rather than just “experts,” think about future political events, without filtering those opinions through potentially biased pollsters. This makes the site a valuable resource.
For example, when Nate Silver asserts that Donald Bolduc is the likely Republican senatorial nominee in New Hampshire and bases both his state and national forecasts on that claim, it’s helpful to see that the collective opinion registered on PredictIt is that that nomination is very much up for grabs and is actually more likely to be won by Chuck Morse. It’s similarly useful to see that the collective prediction on PredictIt is that Liz Cheney had just a three percent chance of winning Tuesday’s Republican primary for the Wyoming House seat. And it’s perhaps especially informative to see that Americans think Ron DeSantis (29 percent) and Donald Trump (25 percent) are each more likely than Joe Biden (20 percent) to win the 2024 presidential election.
At PredictIt, Americans can give opinions on various matters, provided that they’re willing to put their money where their mouths are. (Unlike ubiquitous sports betting, however, this is not the way for someone to try to get rich—as the site specifies, the maximum allowable “investment” on any “prediction” is $850.) This allows others to benefit from “the wisdom of crowds.” The Wall Street Journal calls PredictIt—which is run by Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand—one of “the highest-profile efforts to put markets’ predictive capabilities to the test.” In the letter authorizing PredictIt to operate, the CFTC says the nonprofit site is “for educational purposes” and “represents an academic exercise demonstrating the information gathering and predictive capabilities of markets.”
The CFTC’s stated mission is to provide “sound regulation” of “U.S. derivatives markets.” When not moving to shut down PredictIt, however, the agency has been focused to a large extent on “climate change.” One of Behnam’s first actions as CFTC chairman “was to establish the first-ever Climate Risk Unit” to focus “on the role of derivatives in understanding, pricing, and addressing climate-related risk.”
The agency elaborates: “Chairman Behnam led the creation of the Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee to examine climate-related impacts on the financial system.” Of course, “climate change” isn’t the only thing motivating the agency. Behnam has also “spearheaded efforts to invigorate internal discussions on agency-wide diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
Most Americans, presumably, would say it’s far more important to be able to see what their fellow Americans think is poised to happen in their country’s politics than to study “climate-related impacts on the financial system.” Once again, the Biden Administration is prioritizing the agendas of leftist activists over the concerns of Main Street Americans.
In response, Congress should step up and grant PredictIt the authority to operate. It would be a welcome development if Congress were to take a break from passing legislation that further taxes and regulates Americans and instead do something that increases their freedom.