Odds Suggest US Government Shutdown Will End by January 7th

US Capitol
When will the US Government shutdown end? When will anything end? Photo by Raul654 [CC License].
  • The US Government Shutdown continues into its sixth day
  • How long will it last?
  • How do we predict how long anything will last?

The most recent government shutdown started on December 22nd and could stretch into the New Year. Betting sites project that it will end by January 7th, but does that provide value for bettors?

US Government Shutdown Odds

Will The US Government Shutdown End On/Before January 7th, 2019? Odds at BookMaker
Yes -160
No +130

What Caused the US Government Shutdown?

Congress couldn’t agree on a funding package to keep the government running because after the Senate passed a bill with no funding for a border wall included, Donald Trump declared that he wouldn’t sign any such bill. Since any legislation needs the President’s signature (or a complicated veto override that nobody has voted for) to become law, this essentially killed the funding bill the Senate had passed.

The House then passed a bill that included $5 billion for the wall (and $8 billion for disaster relief) but couldn’t get off the ground in the Senate. The shutdown started on December 22nd, when the previous Continuing Resolution expired.

When Will the US Government Shutdown End?

Projecting the length of ongoing phenomena is difficult, and there are a few basic ways to go about it. The first is what J Richard Gott III called the Copernican Principle, and it’s almost hilariously simple.

As an illustrative example, Gott came up with the idea staring at the Berlin Wall in West Berlin and wondering when it would come down. He knew that it had stood for eight years, and figured that those three points (the date of the wall’s construction, the date Gott observed the wall and the date of the wall’s destruction) formed the lifetime of the wall. If you know the first two, you should be able to estimate the third, right?

Gott’s reasoning extended. He thought that if he divided the total life of the wall into four quarters, there was a 50% chance his visit to the wall came at some point in the middle two quarters.  And it turned out he was right enough, and the wall came down 20 years later, within the limits his reasoning suggested.

There is a 50% chance that the shutdown (which has lasted six days so far) lasts between eight days and 24 days.

This is all to say that, broadly speaking, there is a 50% chance that the shutdown (which has lasted six days so far) lasts between eight days (and thus ends on December 30th) and 24 days, and ends on January 15.

You can read more about the Copernican Principle and its many limitations here, and you can use it every day. If you get to a bus stop and you know it’s been seven minutes since the last bus came, you can figure that it’s probably another seven until the next bus comes. This is essentially what BookMaker did to come up with these odds.

Government Shutdown Betting Advice

The 116th Congress (the new one, where Democrats control the House of Representatives) starts on January 3, 2018, and it’s not likely that the old one will strike a deal. Can a newly-minted (and newly-split) Congress solve a shutdown in less than four days? BookMaker will give you -160 odds that it can!

Personally, I’d like to take +130 that the world’s most intractable legislative body doesn’t solve a problem in less than one work week.

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