Friday, August 12, 2022

Panarchy as Platform/Protocol

A summary via select quotations from Paul-Emile De Puydt's Panarchy (1860):

On the civil level we provide against unworkable households by legal separation or divorce. I suggest an analogous solution for politics, without having to circumscribe it with formalities and protective restrictions, for in politics a first marriage leaves no children or physical marks. My method differs from unjust and tyrannical procedures followed in the past in that I have no intention to do anyone violence. Does anybody want to carry out a political schism? He should be able to do so but on one condition, namely, that he will do it within his own group, affecting neither the rights nor the creed of others. To achieve this, it is absolutely not necessary to subdivide the territory of the State into so many parts as there are known and approved forms of government. 


Do you know how a civil registry office works? It is just a matter of making a new application of this. In each community a new office is opened, a "Bureau of Political Membership." This office would send every responsible citizen a declaration form to fill in, just as for income tax or dog registration.


[W]hatever your reply, your answer would be entered in a register arranged for this purpose; and once registered, unless you withdrew your declaration, observing due legal form and process, you would thereby become either a royal subject or citizen of the republic [or whatever other option you chose. Thereafter you would in no way be involved with anyone else's government ...


If a disagreement came about between subjects of different governments, or between one government and a subject of another, it would simply be a matter of observing the principles hitherto observed between neighbouring peaceful States; and if a gap were found, it could be filled without difficulties by human rights and all other possible rights. Anything else would be the business of ordinary courts of justice.

It's not 1860 anymore, and it seems to me that the "Bureau of Political Membership" De Puydt refers to would be better served by distributed technology than by traditional bureaucracy.

As readers of this blog know, I've engaged in a kind of desultory investigation of cryptocurrency "tokens" as the instrument for constructing a panarchy platform or protocol.

Frankly, I didn't find Ravencoin's assets offering very particularly suited to the task. Some Ethereum token projects for e.g. personal identification and such looked like they might be a possibility. And, in the back of my mind, there was another one.

Today, Edge Wallet brought that other one to the front of my mind. They've announced their support for Polkadot.

And what, pray tell, is Polkadot? Per Wikipedia:

Polkadot is an open source blockchain platform and cryptocurrency. It provides interconnectivity and interoperability between blockchains, by enabling independent chains to securely exchange messages and perform transactions with each other without a trusted third-party. This allows for cross-chain transfers of data or assets, between different blockchains, and for cross-chain DApps (decentralized applications) to be built using the Polkadot Network. ... Polkadot provides a primary chain (relay-chain), which can host a large number of validatable and globally consistent data structures (parachains).

So, let's envision a number of "parachains" interacting through the Polkadot "relay-chain":

  • An individual identification token chain. I'm not going to get into the weeds here on how intrusive the process for acquiring such a token might be (and there could be various providers with varying criteria, and in theory it could actually be anonymous in many respects), but it's a token that says "I am the person who controls this token, and the person who controls this token is me."
  • A polity token chain. A bunch of us, voluntarily and of our own accords, form a mutual governance structure (a Covenant of Unanimous Consent). We codify its rules of operation, including how it will relate with other polities and its admission standards for individuals. We issue a token that can be acquired by meeting those standards.
  • The De Puydt style Bureau of Political Membership chain, which keeps a ledger of interactions establishing (or ending) the affiliations of individuals with polities.
  • Additional chains to provably codify mutual relations/agreements/affiliations between polities, between polities and arbitration organizations, etc.
Are there problems inherent in panarchy? Well, define "problems."

Presumably some individuals would choose to remain unidentified (that is, eschew procurement of an ID token), and/or to not affiliate with any polity. I don't see that as a "problem" per se. From the POV of mutually affiliated polities and the "bureau," these people would be ... outlaws. No, not criminals. Just persons having no affiliations with, and therefore no entitlements to specific considerations from, or treatments by, the polities.

I suspect that there would be limits to the disadvantages of outlawry. The bureau might require that all registering polities operate above some "minimum basic law" floor that e.g. requires due process through arbitration even for "outlaws" before they can be punished for crimes, have property seized, etc.

Of course, there would likely also be "outlaw" polities which refuse to provide a "basic law" floor, claim geographical territorial monopolies rather than even acknowledging the panarchy, etc. In fact, it's virtually guaranteed that that would be the case at the beginning, since this panarchy would presumably be a case of "building the new society in the shell of the old." The old-style territorial polities aren't going to give up their juris-my-diction crap easily.

But to the extent that panarchy is a desirable direction and project, I think that blockchains and tokens provide the best design/launch/operation prospects. And I hope someone with more technical ability than me will get to work on making them happen!

DISCLOSURE: Shortly after publishing this post, I acquired some (low three figures USD value) Polkadot. Not that I expect this post to move that market, but mentioning seems right from a transparency perspective.

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