In Voluntary Governments, a newly uncovered post from 2016 by John Palmer examines not only the future of Governance on-chain, but the past as well. 

This review will summarize Johns ideas, as well as offer my unique perspective on the ideas presented.

John examines how business flows multiple “testers” or business to test their model, even without the majority market share. This is not applied to traditional government, however, as only one party is in power at a time, leading to slow change. 

In a bid for efficiency, John suggests, as an example, a political party requiring 10 USD to be a part, and dishing out voting tokens. This reminds me of Eden on EOS, a governance model with one party only, requiring a 10 EOS donation to join. It’s certainly a possibility, though one that is simply improving the old system instead of inventing a new one with the full capabilities of the technology at hand. 

Another, untethered version of this is a list-based proposal structure, where citizens publish a list of proposals/issues/decisions they support or delegate this responsibility of list-publishing to another. The list of every citizen is read into a smart contract that allocates the “tax fund” to  the project’s account addresses.  

This is a more complex version of DPOS where token holders vote for block producers, except each citizen gets an equal say regardless of holding a token. There are certainly nearly infinite possibilities and ways to collaborate and govern on-chain, and all seem to be miles faster than the current systems of government on Earth.  

Perhaps the most inspiring part of the paper for me was reading about the VR suggestions. The idea of testing entire cities seems quite complex to me, as I’m not sure how well these things translate into the virtual world. However there are things that do translate very well into the virtual world, mainly human emotions and productive meetings of people. We have seen through the recent pandemic how people can still collaborate in ways that we thought required physical interaction. If we can instead of trying to rebuild the entire world, rebuild how groups of people can connect and communicate, we can form the basis for a government that does not feel as digitized, but one that feels more human.

It is my belief that any successful digitized government system, whether or not on block chain will certainly involve a strong element of real humans meeting face to face through a screen. If we can tap into VR technology, we can make meetings that are not only more realistic, but allow a more human expression, one with gestures in 3-D, and a shared space which can be engineered to create a certain certain sort of experience or even emotional connection. If we can engineer these virtual spaces and meetings of citizens in a way that creates collaboration, a feeling of belonging, and an equal playing field for ideas to propagate, the power of block chain will gain a face that the brain can store and create stories with. 

John also talks about software eating currency. I don’t think software will ever fully eat currency, just like FIAT didn’t fully eat gold, but I’ve never traded in gold, and perhaps in enough generations my descendants will never use physical paper money in a transaction. Again, this something that the recent pandemic has fast-tracked. 

Here’s my thoughts on John’s ideas.

Option 1: Currencies tied to geographic nation states become mostly a formality for certain governmental procedures that are lagging behind. In virtually all cases, people will use universal digital currencies like bitcoin.

This may happen in the long run, but not within 100 years. There’s quite a lot of inertia with the system that we have, and humans are hardly rational decision makers. This combined with institutional control over the key aspects of our of lives, property, taxes, regulation, make it unlikely a majority of people ditch FIAT in the day-to-day. I think it is far more likely that the opposite happens, and the government comes into digital currencies as we have seen in China and San Salvador. At this point it isn’t even speculation.

Option 2: Currencies develop an even more granular attachment to geographic areas, and this change is enabled by digital currencies. With no need for a mint or a bank, cities, neighborhoods, or even families will be able to design their own currencies, enabling super efficient markets on a micro scale.


This option is far more likely in my opinion. But I believe that there still would need to be some sort of a regulatory agency, or at least an agreed-upon standard or protocol for this type of location-based currency to exist. Most likely this would follow already to find Geo political lines, and perhaps even the stratification of globe, nation, state, county, city. 

John’s article was very excitable and forward-thinking for 2016. As we put more things into code, we learn how these systems will actually work, and adjust. I look forward to reading what he was kicking around for humans in 2021.

If you enjoyed my perspective, I invite you to dive into the things I write on GitHub.