One thing my co-blogger Bryan and I agree on is that proposing a bet is a good way of making people fess up to whether they’re really confident, especially about their extreme statements. Bryan might have said it differently than what I just said but when I do a search on his posts and put in the word “bet,” I get over 200 posts. I gave up after looking through the six or seven most likely. In any case, I think I’ve said it clearly enough.

One amusing anecdote before I get to the more serious issue. A few days after the November election, I ran into a student I’m fond of who I knew wanted badly for Obama to lose. He, like me, was not a fan of Romney, but he badly wanted Obama to lose. But, he said, at least the good news is that whoever the Republicans nominate in 2016 will win against whoever the Democrats nominate. “Really?”, I said. “Yes,” he said. “OK,” I said, “let’s bet $50 and you give me 4 to 1 odds.” “No,” he said. “OK,” I said, “3 to 1.” “No,” he said again. “What odds will you offer?” I asked. “Even odds,” he replied. “No,” I said, “at even odds, I think you’ve got a good bet.”

Now to the more serious issue. On the Jim Lehrer Newshour yesterday, pundit Mark Shields said:

And the reality is that in the United States of America in 2012, it’s easier in many states to rent an automobile — to buy an automatic weapon than it is to rent an automobile.

In the comments, “Gringao” proposed a clever bet:

I’ll tell you what, Mr. Shields, I’ll make you a bet: You go buy an automatic weapon and I’ll go rent a car. Then we’ll present the receipts to see who has done it more quickly. The quicker transaction gets $100,000 from the slower. Deal?

And then the coup de grace:

Are these the cognitive elite I keep hearing about?

Indeed. People who want to be serious about these deadly serious issues should be at least somewhat informed.