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DAO in Democracy

Published Mar 30, 2021

In 2019, the UCP was elected in to office in Alberta. They received 54.88% of the vote, yet hold 72.4% of the seats in the province. A similar result happened in the federal election in Canada as well where the Liberal party lost the popular vote (33.12%, compared to the Conservative Party that got the popular vote with 34.34%), yet won the election and hold the most seats (Liberals have 46% of seats, Conservatives hold 36%). This really shows a flaw in how first past the post is failing to represent voters, and even more so, I think modern democracy is failing the people due to the 4 year cycle of this. There are a number of reasons why I feel this is the case as of late. First, since elected officials have a 4 year term, they likely are spending comparable amount of time doing their elected job as they spend trying to get reelected for their job. Second, because their job depends on how they vote in their party, and not their region or representing their constituents, we are not getting the best out of our elected officials either. Third, you vote on a massive platform for a party, instead of the individual parts of the public infrastructure. There does exist a world where all parties of the spectrum have something to add to the public infrastructure that just isn’t being included when we vote on these broad platforms of a single party. Maybe the UCP had some good policy when it came to attracting jobs, while the NDP may have had better policy in regards to health care and education. Instead of getting the best out of our government, we get the platform of one party. There also is no accountability for our elected officials either. During the pandemic, just in our provincial government of Alberta alone we had a large number of representatives going on vacation to exotic locations while the rest of us had to follow public guidelines of staying home for the holidays. It was a massive slap in the face, with hardly any repercussions for the parties at fault here. If we had recall election in place, a large number of these offenders would have likely faced recall for their slap in the face to their constituents. Now that technology has reached such a critical point of use and adoption, is it time to change how we do democracy in a place like Alberta?

In researching blockchain, there was an interesting concept known as Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO’s) introduced. What is interesting about this new way of forming organizations is it removed the need for a centralized authority like a government, central bank, centrally organized corporation, etc, and instead decentralized this task to the nodes of a network in the case of blockchain technology. In this case, we could think of the network as our province, and the nodes being individuals. In a DAO, people must make proposals to the DAO in order to get funding from a treasury. If enough people vote for your proposal, then you will get funding for your project. This provides a more real time effect in democracy. More real time than every 4 years at least. As well as a more granular approach to voting on our public infrastructure, not just a sweeping platform.

So, how could we use the idea of a DAO when it comes to government. Or, at least using it as a hybrid. What has got me thinking the most about this is really just the blatant disrespect our Alberta government has for its peers. Our government has a “War Room” that costs us 30 million dollars a year as tax payers. Some of their highlights include, nepotism in hiring a designer who plagiarized two logos and somehow didn’t have it caught in that process, fighting a Netflix kids movie because it has scenes showing oil and gas that don’t represent Alberta, and a twitter troll running the whole thing. It has been blunder after blunder, and we as Albertans are on the hook for this without any say in the matter. Another is a change in curriculum (which had been done by the previous NDP government which only had one term before the UCP were in, so its very recent), which is just filled with terrible outcomes, racism, lack of understanding of child development, and lack of consulting. I say lack of consulting because while they paid consultants to have that talking point, they clearly didn’t take any of it as consideration when it came to releasing it. All of these cost us millions and millions of dollars, with no say or understanding that this was the platform we were paying for. We also gave away billions of dollars to oil and gas through policies that wouldn’t apply to small business/start ups, and buying pipelines that are never going to get finished unless Trump won a second term. I’m all for speculative investments, but not when it comes at the cost of our healthcare and education. We are only half way through their term as well, and so who knows what is next to come when it comes to spending our public tax dollars.

An alternative, albeit unlikely one, to this is providing DAO for the public to vote on when it comes to budget decisions. At the moment, I, as an Albertan, am basically getting no say in anything that comes from a budget. I also don’t get to vote on the things I like from one party, and the things I like from the other party. It’s winner takes all. All I can do is hope that they do something I agree with at best. The prospect of a budget proposal and then debate with the government currently is out of the question. So what would this look like? Well, in a regular interval, I, as an Albertan, get to vote on budgets. The UCP, NDP, whoever is in power would propose their projects to the people. Let’s use an example from before, the “War Room”, as a hypothetical here. The UCP would need to propose that they need 30 million for the annual budget for this project. Once this proposal is made, it is then put out for a vote among the population as to whether this is a good use of our tax dollars. If enough people vote yes and believe this project is doing a lot of good for our province in attractive positive attention to our oil and gas sector, then they would receive funding for their proposal. However, if people noticed blunder after blunder like they have been, then we would possibly be able to vote to no longer support the funding of this initiative. This would allow more real time feedback/participation from constituents in the democratic process, and there would be some level of accountability built in to this instead of sucking it up for 4 years while we wait to see what damage is done.

This system isn’t without its flaws at all though. How do we have ensure we have meaningful votes instead of someone just checking off a box? How do we ensure minorities are properly represented in this scenario? How do we avoid the traps of system issues that we are facing today? All of these aren’t necessarily going to disappear with something like a DAO. The best thing I can think of is it might allow us to iterate on our process better to address these issues quicker. But maybe it will just exacerbate them as well depending on who participates due to access to internet, and other privileges? I would really like to spend some time thinking about this problem, because I do think theres a better way to do modern democracy using some of this technology.