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Democratic Value and Money for Decentralized Digital Society

Bryan Ford
June 2018 (first draft)

arXiv preprint


Classical monetary systems regularly subject the most vulnerable majority of the world's population to debilitating financial shocks, and have manifestly allowed uncontrolled global inequality over the long term. Given these basic failures, how can we avoid asking whether mainstream macroeconomic principles are actually compatible with democratic principles such as equality or the protection of human rights and dignity? This idea paper takes a constructive look at this question, by exploring how alternate monetary principles might result in a form of money more compatible with democratic principles -- dare we call it "democratic money"? In this alternative macroeconomic philosophy, both the supply of and the demand for money must be rooted in people, so as to give all people both equal opportunities for economic participation. Money must be designed around equality, not only across all people alive at a given moment, but also across past and future generations of people, guaranteeing that our descendants cannot be enslaved by their ancestors' economic luck or misfortune. Democratic money must reliably give all people a means to enable everyday commerce, investment, and value creation in good times and bad, and must impose hard limits on financial inequality. Democratic money must itself be governed democratically, and must economically facilitate the needs of citizens in a democracy for trustworthy and unbiased information with which to make wise collective decisions. An intriguing approach to implementing and deploying democratic money is via a cryptocurrency built on a proof-of-personhood foundation, giving each opt-in human participant one equal unit of stake. Such a cryptocurrency would have both interesting similarities to, and important differences from, a Universal Basic Income (UBI) denominated in an existing currency.

Preprint: PDF

Topics: Democracy Identity Economics Blockchain Bryan Ford