Good governance system does not mean good outcomes

in #fractally3 months ago

Any governance process, regardless of how good and fair the system is, can only be as good as a community of individuals that runs it. This is the idea behind the title. It might seem pretty obvious, but I think that we often do not fully understand all the implications of that.

Imagine that we have figured out a perfect governance system. Communities all over the world start using it, and everyone's happy. Well, criminal organizations are communities too, and they need to organize themselves too. Why wouldn't they use the best governance process there is?

This tells us that it is not a function of a governance process to ensure good outcomes. The function of a governance process is to represent the will of the people within the community. If the will of community is to produce evil things, a good governance process will ensure that community is able to do evil things effectively (by at least protecting community from getting stuck in disagreements about what evil things to do and how).

The goal of the community does not have to be focused on doing bad things in order for outcomes to be bad. If you have enough people who hate each other in the same governance process, it will most likely not be able to produce anything good, even though the community declares morally sound goals.

Furthermore, if people within the community are divided, a good governance process will usually make the division visible. It might help resolve the division in some cases but not always. In cases where it isn't able to resolve divisions, community often will not be able to move forward unless it splits.

Again, these mechanics might seem kind of obvious, but in my experience not everyone talks with this understanding in context.

For example, in the EdenOnEOS community an idea is floating around that the Eden process ought to prove itself by doing useful things. With the above understanding this statement does not make sense: you cannot test a governance process by testing externally measurable outcomes. By testing outcomes you are, first of all, testing the community comprised of actual people. You are testing these people - what do they want to do and how well they can work together to achieve that. Sure governance process can help people achieve the outcomes, but it is not what determines the outcomes. It's the people that determine the outcomes.

If we really want to test a governance process itself, the only way to do that is to have a bunch of communities running the process correctly and asking people within the community, if they feel represented. That's the ultimate test of a governance process because it tests the main function of a governance process.

I would like to point out another critical implication of the above understanding. In this case, it is relevant to genesis fractal community. Fractally is building its own blockchain. It might be tempting for the genesis fractal community to think that everyone will come to this chain and use their token because it runs this great governance mechanism that truly represents the people. But this will only partly be true at best. The fact that the chain is governed using a governance process that represents people, does not mean that this chain will be governed well, and most importantly, it does not mean that everyone will like the way it is governed. The fact that it is governed this way just means that the social aspect becomes very important. It means that besides considering the governance protocol that the chain runs, people will have to consider the community that runs the governance. Do they like the people within the community? Do they feel welcomed? Do they agree with the values of that community? All of these questions become relevant. Sure, if anyone can join the governance process easily enough, then they can start influencing governance in the way they see fit, so that community becomes aligned more in the way they prefer. But, then you should ask - why not look for a chain that is governed by people with whom you are more aligned, in the first place? The more aligned community is, the easier it is for it to operate. A rational person will always prefer a community that is more aligned with his own values. Therefore, even for someone who always prefers chains governed by a fractally process as defined in the whitepaper, the question of what chain to choose is still very much open.

Don't get me wrong - I'm absolutely optimistic about potential of next-generation democratic processes like Eden and Fractally. I'm just pointing out limitations that are common to every governance process. We should never forget that these new systems share at least some of them. Otherwise, we start making mistakes typical of people who believe in utopian solutions.


I completely agree.

The goal of mechanism design is not to engineer any particular outcomes, it is to design credibly neutral incentive systems that are maximally self-justified.

Any governance process... can only be as good as a community of individuals that runs it.

And in fact, "goodness" itself is only identifiable by a community. Even if you think your community is good and produces good outcomes, there will always be other groups of people who disagree with the goals of your community and therefore think your outcomes are "bad."

the question of what chain to choose is still very much open.

Absolutely. The new chain likely represents a Schelling Point for those interested in our new consensus mechanism, which will contribute to network effects, but I'm very much looking forward to many permutations of the new chain being launched that represent the wills of the diverse communities that use them.

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