Blockchains as sovereign communities: a manifesto

“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.” - Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Communities have an inalienable right to thrive through self-organization and collective action, unburdened by the status quo. Technologies that make it possible to launch community-owned computer programs, in the form of sovereign blockchains, are important to realising this right.

Throughout human history, societies have been pushed forward by groups of people with shared goals that have assembled, whether in the pursuit of grassroots activism, struggle, innovation or culture.

In order to fully realise the right to freedom of assembly and association, groups of people must be able to create and enforce shared social agreements and contracts that document the relationship between groups of people in a community. They must be able to do so without relying on middlemen such as nation states or corporations to enforce such agreements, which have traditionally been slow, bureaucratic, untrustworthy, corrupt or prone to censorship.

Blockchains have for the first time in history, allowed consenting people to enter into shared economic and contractual relationships with each other, without the need of untrustworthy middlemen to enforce the terms of the relationships. This has enabled the emergence of numerous new social and economic primitives including Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), Distributed Cooperative Organizations (DisCOs), Decentralized Finance (DeFi), Collaborative Finance (CoFi), and Regenerative Finance (ReFi).

Sovereign blockchains are sovereign communities

“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.” - A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Blockchains are community-owned computer programs, whose rules are enforced by everyone who has a copy of the same computer program, and participates in the network as a node.

The network does not require any higher authority to enforce the rules of the community-owned computer program, such as an army or a police force. The rules are enforced directly by participants of the network, and the ledger produced by the network has meaning and value because a community has willed it to do so, as a result of a social contract that exists amongst that community.

Therefore, blockchains are sovereign, because they directly implement the will of communities bound by shared social contracts. This, in turn, empowers the community to be sovereign, in a similar way that a nation state is sovereign.

Top-level social contracts

All rules and laws which govern contractual relationships ultimately derive their authority from social contracts.

Traditional organisations, for example, derive their authority from the laws of the country under which an organisation is incorporated, and those laws may derive authority from a country’s law-making authority such as a parliament, which ultimately derives its authority from a social contract amongst the people, which may be documented in a constitution. Through social consensus, these social contracts can and have often amended the laws beneath them either peacefully or forcefully.

Such social contracts are top-level social contracts, because they serve as the root that all contracts below the social contract derive their authority from, and there are no higher authorities above them.

Blockchains uniquely have their own top-level social contracts independent of the top-level social contracts that underlie nation states, enforced by the social consensus of the sovereign community that participates in the network and ascribes meaning and value to the ledger produced by the network. Similarly, this social consensus can amend the rules of a blockchain with hard forks, which only have meaning because the community of a blockchain network has sovereignty via its own top-level social contract.

Sovereign rollup chains as sovereign communities

Similar to traditional contracts, smart contracts that are not sovereign may be created underneath a sovereign blockchain that operates as a smart contract platform. This may for example be a DAO deployed a smart contract on a layer 1 blockchain. However, this DAO would not be a sovereign community, as it does not derive its authority from its own top-level social contract, but a third party one. Should the DAO’s community wish to effect justice in way that requires enforcing its social contract, it would not be able to do so without the permission of the top-level social contract above it.

The ability for sovereign communities to create their own top-level social contracts is a fundamentally unique and powerful new primitive enabled by blockchains. However, a sovereign community creating its own layer 1 blockchain comes with the significant overhead of having to deploy and maintain its own layer 1 consensus and validator network.

By avoiding the need for each sovereign community to have to deploy a new consensus network, sovereign rollup chains significantly reduce the friction for sovereign communities to realise their own top-level social contracts in the form of community-owned computers. This will bring us to a new reality where there is indeed an inalienable right for communities to thrive through self-organisation and collective action, unburdened by the status quo.

By making deploying sovereign chains as easy as deploying a blog, a proliferation of millions of sovereign communities with their own top-level social contracts in the form of sovereign chains, may be imminent.

Build modular. Be sovereign.