Governance, that age-old question
How humans govern themselves is a problem that nobody has solved. For thousands of years civilizations have attempted to crack this pesky conundrum, and arguably we’ve gotten a bit better at it. But has anyone truly solved governance? When we look at the instability in our history, it’s hard to say we have.
With blockchain and decentralization, a new movement has emerged to try to demonstrate what proper governance can look like. The DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization, is one of many new attempts to organize human beings in a way that is conducive to efficiency and happiness. Tokenomics— a unique staple in web3 organizations— potentially hold the power to reinvent governance as we know it. So what’s the best system?
Community as the core of great governance
The short answer is: we don’t know. There are still total intangibles to governance that seem to elude our planning. Let’s take a look at the United States’ governance as an example.
Many people will point to the United States, a representative democracy, as an example of an effective governance system. Consider, however, that early on in the forming of that government, the first president, George Washington, was given free reign to control the government as he saw fit. He could have declared himself a king, and in fact it was his completely voluntary precedents that determined much of how the government matured in subsequent years.
Most people would agree that this kind of noble behavior is what shaped the United States toward an enduring democracy, and that Washington single-handedly could have given himself supreme power but chose not to. So this begs the question: how do we find the George Washington’s in web3? Where are the builders who will willingly take a back seat to allow an organization to grow?
And this is where community comes into play. A strong community with shared values and interests is one way to ensure that your members will look out for one another. George Washington had just gone through a war and was thinking of what great sacrifices took place so that this new government could form. He was surrounded by soldiers and generals and statesmen who had gone through something similar. His incentive was to improve community, not hijack it.
What does the web3 analogue look like? That’s hard to say. A quick look at some of Juicebox’s governance systems will show why we believe that, while there are always some tangibles, good tooling can point you in the right direction.
Transparency is key
web3 is paradoxical in more ways than one. Perhaps at its core, however, is the idea that transparency is key. No backdoor deals, and everything can can be audited if one wishes.
This system dovetails with the themes of trustlessness we see all over blockchain discussions. If I’m regularly doing backroom deals, in the traditional world I would need your trust to let me keep doing that. How do you know I’m not abusing that trust? You don’t. In the web3 world, I have to have my dealings out in the open. Now, I don’t care if you trust me or not, because you can freely look at what I’m doing and, if it’s inappropriate, you can simply call attention to that.
Does this always work? No, of course not. But does it go a far way to establishing a shared value system? Yes. If everything is open, including payout distributions, proposals for how to change something, or partnership deals, then likely everyone will be on the same page about it. It also gives opportunity for structured disagreements, where hard questions can be asked.
Bringing it all together
If anybody promises you that they have a system for finding the “George Washingtons” in your governance, run the other way. There is no sure-fire way to find the intangibles. What you can do, however, is structure your governance in a way that scares away the bad actors. Remember that your fifth columns only work when there are shadows, concealment, and graft at play. When you shine a bright light on everything, suddenly the environment is less conducive to trickery and value-misalignment (whether pernicious or well-intentioned). Keep that light shining bright, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. You owe it to yourself and to your governance-compatriots.