city skyline
How do we go about founding alternatives to the ultimate inherited institutions, namely cities and states?.

[Ed. note: This blog post was entered into a competition on this topic sponsored by Balaji Srinivasan.]

I've had this thought about nations before:

The best country to live in is one where no one knows the name of your leader.

To a first approximation, I think that's true.

I'm American, so let's take Americans, as an example. For this example, assume no shaming or blame is implied.

Many Americans couldn't name the leader of Canada, Germany, Japan, or Switzerland. Yet those are well-run countries - and that's the point.

It's not just because people are ignorant, or not paying attention. They could tell you the name of the leader of a country, for example, who famously kills his political enemies.

In Germany, the operative point is this: you can become famous as the leader of a great company, not as a German. People might not even know your nationality.

And that's a good thing.

Or, take Elon Musk.

You can tell the history of Elon Musk almost as a stand-alone entity. You don't have to detour into Elon Musk's communications with the President of the United States. In a 10 minute retelling of Elon Musk's biography, you don't have to spend 5 minutes explaining his relationship to Joe Biden, or Donald Trump.

In a bad country, you have to do this. It's dishonest not to; it's necessary.

In the worst cases, the reason that people are famous, or rich, or powerful, is because of their proximity to the leader. No matter who you are, the leaders of the country overshadow you. Every explanation of anything related to that country puts their name first.

This problem is related to how we can create alternatives to cities and states.

Balaji Srinivasan, in his essay on founding vs. inheriting, describes how political positions are inherited in the sense that the position itself pre-existed them.

This can be contrasted with founders, who originated their position. For CEO's, their position came into being when they founded the company.

king image

Imagine a political dynasty.

The existence of a political dynasty means that power is becoming centralized - in the case of a dynasty, in a particular family. And that's negative.

Because what not knowing the last name of the leader of a country means, in practice, is that there is a system that is larger, stronger, and more important, than they are.

In a country that doesn't meet our positive standard, that's not true; the leader dwarfs everything else. Nothing is as powerful as he is.

In a country that does, the leaders change, and the system is more powerful than they are.

We can make an analogy to Ethereum.

Although Vitalik Buterin is the name most associated with it, Ethereum has been careful to emphasize decentralization and numerically named proposals to improve the system. It's not a cult of personality. Things are done by procedure. There are discussions, there are checks and balances.

In other words, there's a message here:

There is a system in Ethereum, that you can trust, that's bigger than any one person.

The top exchanges, like Coinbase, explicity value this.

In Coinbase's project assessment standards, not being controlled by a small number of insiders is a big plus. Being controlled by a small number of insiders is a strike against you.

coinbase decentralization grading points

An alternative to a city, or a state, should follow this path.

There may be one or two figureheads, or nominal leaders, but to succeed, the project will have to be much mure decentralized, and independent, than one person's solo adventure.

Look at the opposite extreme, in crypto: a DAO, or a decentalized autonomous organizations.

A DAO is a kind of experiment in decentralized organiztions. As time goes on, we'll see more of those improvements accumulating, and some making a name for themselves.

I think the jury's still out, on how far these experiments can go, in duplicating the success of, say, a real company. Yet there are reasons to be hopeful.

There are people all over the world who aren't particularly happy with the status quo, in their own country. They may be tiny compared to the power of their political leaders - but they still have power. Collectively, they have even more power.

These millions of people, across the globe, are motivated to see, if not an alternative to the city-state, at least an alternative to local earning opportunities, to local infrastructure, to local impasses.

For their benefit, I hope an experiment like this succeeds.