Image source: Cups and Cakes Bakery

Can Bitcoin Fix Democracy?

on Friday, Jun. 6th

My gut reaction to the headline “Bitcoin Could Change Voting the Way It’s Changed Money” was “let’s just not.” Bitcoin, in my eyes, carries a lot of baggage—a toxic cocktail of naïvety and instability.

Good thing that I didn’t let my cognitive biases stop me from reading me from reading Meghan Neal’s article:

There’s a sense bubbling up in the cryptocorners of the internet that the trick to bitcoin might be that it doesn’t have to be a currency at all. Maybe cryptocurrency’s fundamental value is as a security protocol—a safe, anonymous, hack-proof network that decentralizes trust and democratizes power. And maybe a hitherto overlooked use of all that is politics, by using the bitcoin precedent to overhaul democratic voting.

That’s the kind of forward thinking that gets my old, cynical heart pumping.

Bitcoin, as you know by now, relies on crowdsourced verification of transactions. This is known as the “blockchain” and it works as a kind of public ledger. Therein lies the rub for its use in a voting system. The strength of bitcoin comes from the pubic nature of the transactions, and the power of the ballot process is that it is secret. Open voting can be subject to all kinds of after-the-ballot intimidation.

The core question is whether or not this is just an engineering problem that can be overcome, or if this is a fundamental conflict between two paradigms.

As Neal notes, this is one conversation taking place in the context of a larger about the possibility of moving towards direct (aka “liquid”) democracy. Something that I’ve been passionate about in the past.

Image source: Cups and Cakes Bakery

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