Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

The anti-mandate occupation of Parliament grounds in Wellington, New Zealand shut down by police action on 2 March 2022 was a miracle of decentralized organization. It went from inspiration from the Canadian Truckers Convoy to arrival within the week, and it lasted 22 days. By the end there were no fewer than three food tents feeding well over 1000 people breakfast, lunch and dinner daily for free.

I heard they were spending $5,000 per day. I have no idea whether that’s all three tents or just one, but that gives you an idea of the scale.

The food was prepared in a secret location and arrived in huge pans. I did a shift doling out rice and vegan stroganoff, and it was pretty clear that the organizers were experienced hospitality people presumably mandated out of their jobs.

Generators powered water heaters, stormwater drains were the kitchen sink, and water came from a system of hoses and taps.

The funding came from donations set up through haphazard Telegram and Facebook communication, and I saw posts demanding transparency.

Cryptocurrency

I happen to be into cryptocurrency, and I can see how it could help an event like this enormously.

I’ve been playing with a smart contract platform called Flare which is essentially just a clone of Ethereum but with better performance and lower fees. What smart contracts do is to allow people to interact in complex ways using pre-agreed rules, in such a way that there is no central person holding the money, so no-one to run off with it.

One issue is that smart contract platforms currently only work with cryptocurrency. But New Zealand Dollars is what people actually have. So that’s one issue that needs to be worked out, namely how to represent national currencies on smart contract platforms easily, safely and legally – or not, depending on the level of civil disobedience involved.

A simple set-up might work like this:

  • The contract maintains a list of service providers.
  • When donors donate, they select which service providers they want to fund.
  • Funds are split between service providers accordingly.

But the possibilities are limitless. For instance, donors could nominate people they trust who are on-site as “inspectors”. Their job would be to observe the various service providers and make sure they’re really doing their job. They could, for example, do a daily checklist of certain things they see happening.

Donors who don’t have someone on the ground could see that others who are paying good money have people they trust and they may elect to trust them too. Trust is built through careful structuring of incentives.

Any kind of communication is possible. Inspectors could run blogs where they describe what’s going on with photos and interviews and establish trust that way.

The potential of smart contracts to achieve great things in a decentralized way is huge. What I’m interested in is the potential for this model to run rings around government in an even greater way than we actually saw.

What these platforms do is make all kinds of decentralized trust models possible, with the key point being that they can handle money. Because that money is handled according to a pre-agreed set of rules, and those rules are strictly enforced by a neutral party, dishonesty is only possible through finding unanticipated loop-holes.

No-one can just run away with the money. And, even more importantly – with cryptocurrency, governments can’t freeze bank accounts as they did in Canada.

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