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Octopus or Economist: Who Would You Trust?

Paul the Octopus has become a global celebrity following his recent success predicting the results of Germany’s World Cup games.

With those who have nothing better to do watching on, Paul has been put into a tank and asked to swim toward one of two symbols representing the German national team and their next opponents in the World Cup.

Paul has been very successful so far and is predicting that Spain will be victorious in Wednesday's semifinal. At CNBC we decided we would take a break from fretting over European stress tests, austerity and the risk of double-dip recession and take a serious look at whether a cephalopod mollusk with two options is more use than a scholar of the dismal science.

“With a success rate of 70 percent I would consider hiring Paul,” HSBC Chief Economist Stephen King said.

King refused to comment on whether HSBC would offer Paul any bonus if his predictions proved accurate on the grounds he would have nothing to spend it on, and he cautioned that the world is a very complicated place.

“Paul has to make a 50-50 call on two outcomes, which is not what an economist has to do," King said. "The world is a very complicated place, we do not just need to call double-dip or recovery, we must focus on the risks of stagflation or a U-shaped recovery."

That may be true. But it is clear that Paul has more chips on the table than your usual economist. If Nouriel Roubini is wrong about the double-dip, his reputation could be tarnished somewhat. If Paul the Octopus’ namesake at the New York Times, Paul Krugman, is wrong on government spending then his life is not on the line.

Paul the Octopus is in real danger of being made into nakji bokum as he sits in his tank trying to decide between Germany and Spain for the game. (I mistakenly wrote calamari earlier — thanks to an alert CNBC reader for correcting.)

Maybe it would help an economist's focus a little if they where put under similar pressure, for example in a game of nonfarm payrolls Russian roulette.

Another thing to consider is the chances of Paul talking himself into the fire. This is something he shares in common with the economists at many major banks. It takes a lot of guts to go against the house view at a major bank with call on a double-dip or sustained recovery.

Paul, though, is an English Octopus in a German restaurant predicting that Spain will win. That is real backbone from a guy who does not even have one.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals want Paul released to continue his sage-like predictions in a safe, less-high-profile location. CNBC backs this call and would like to point out that no animals or economists were harmed in the writing of this story.