It’s been said that “Blockchain technology is not as decentralized as we think” and that critical decisions are made, not democratically, but by a small group of “agents of influence” often including founders, software developers, miners and other parties with a monetary interest in the matter.
This notion is open to debate, of course, but accepting that this is the case today, would it necessarily hold in the future too? Especially when Bitcoin or Ethereum, or any other blockchain network, has billions of users and, for the sake of argument, plays a critical role in the world economy?
Say Bitcoin’s network becomes the platform upon which most global payments are made. At that point (if not before) would the network be deemed a “public good” that is subject to some sort of government or a super government oversight?
That is, key decisions would now be made not just by developers and node operators, but also by an international consortium of economists, scientists, engineers and public administrators. Perhaps even headed by a political appointee?
In the event of a global cataclysm, could this governing consortium even change some of Bitcoin’s foundational principles, like its issuance limit of 21 billion BTC?
A utility working for the common good?
This notion of a public good or utility that operates in the public interest goes back to English common law “when key economic players such as ferry operators had to fulfill certain obligations to the public,” Dave Yost. In the 1890s, the United States began codifying common-carrier and public-utility law after predations by railroad barons like Cornelius Vanderbilt, who once shut down a bridge he owned to rival railroads trying to enter New York City, causing market havoc. While “public goods” have a technical definition, they are usually recognized as commodities or services available to all members of society — local, national or global — like highways or public education, or clean air. They are often regulated by governments.