Elinor Ostrom was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on economic governance. “While others wrote gloomily of the tragedy of the commons, seeing only overfishing and overfarming in a free-for-all of greed, Mrs Ostrom, with her loud laugh and louder tops, cut a cheery and contrarian figure.” ✨ [ref.]
For much of her career, “many economists were deeply influenced by the principle of the ‘tragedy of the commons.’ … the parable suggests that individuals acting in self-interest will ultimately deplete a resource — such as a pasture — that is open to everyone. Scholars used the parable to demonstrate the need for government regulation or control by private industry.” [ref.]
This didn’t correspond to reality as far as Ostrom was concerned, and she made it her life’s work to learn how local knowledge and cooperation could effect good governance of so-called common-pool resources — those resources that are non-excludable (it’s impossible to exclude anyone from consuming the resource) and that feature subtractability of use (rivalrous; where my use reduces your potential use).
While being careful to stress that context could only mean there could be no panacea, she distilled some propositions that became known as Ostrom’s principles.
Ethereum World is non-excludable. It is however non-rivalrous, and may prove anti-rivalrous (where value to everyone increases with use 💪). This makes it a public good rather than a common-pool resource, but we believe it’s fruitful to keep Ostrom’s principles in mind when considering Ethereum World’s governance.
Here’s a quick run through!
1. Define clear group boundaries
The criteria for governance membership of Ethereum World should be explicit and compatible with a code of conduct. We appreciate the need for groups of various expertise and focus, each having the consent of the wider membership, to live up to our purpose and our values in the specified context. The criteria for group membership must be explicit.
2. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions
Taipei, Mumbai, Berlin, and New York all rock in their own unique ways, and we design to maintain the flexibility to respond to such unique contexts. The criteria for the formation and growth of local working groups is broad and permissive.
3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules
This is a fundamental tenet. Ethereum World is a decentralized autonomous social network, where autonomy means having the right or condition of self-governance. It’s essential to start somewhere — what Howard Rheingold calls having a “boot sector” — just as it’s essential to maintain mutability.
4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities
Ethereum World includes a legal entity to render it recognisable to and interactive with ‘the real world’.
5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior
We appreciate the need for ethical deliberation, and members should be able to select a group of people to focus their energies, experience and expertise on ethical questions. This principle is also integral to our moderating system design.
6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators
This must be addressed in a code of conduct and the system design will grow to best enable community self-moderating.
7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution 🤝
Dispute resolution is addressed internally through conversation, through the assessment by corresponding expert groups, with ultimate recourse to external yet accessible arbitration.
8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system
We ❤️ holons. This must be the form of our organizing structure.
We are the world
Ostrom focused on local cooperation. The Ethereum ecosystem should help us all cooperate at international and global scales. We hope Ethereum World — and future ‘worlds’ — will help us span all scales appropriately, giving us all reason to laugh loudly. So join the fun and interact with like-minded Ethereans here and here.
Additionally, if you are interested in collaborating with Ethereum World as an organization, or in building and integrating your app with Ethereum World, please get in touch with us.
Let’s push the boundaries of social networking together in the search for viable alternatives enabling true community ownership and self-governance! 🙌
Featured photo credits : Jesse Collins on Unsplash