Vitalik Buterin
Jan 26 · 3 min read

> He imagines a world in which crypto political and legal processes are necessarily going to go against either his personal preferred political outcomes, or against the public good, and therefore must be minimized.

I think that’s putting things too strongly. It’s a general bedrock of lowercase-c conservative social philosophy that while change can be good, there are many more ways for change to be bad than good (I hope this is easy for people to believe in 2019), and so randomized or even not-super-well-targeted mechanisms for achieving change are likely to lead to more net bad than good. Now I personally can see that it’s not axiomatically true that doing nothing is safest, especially in the context of a changing environment (for example I continue to believe that Bitcoin’s *failure* to raise its blocksize by a significant amount in 2016–17 was a travesty and a great violation of many people’s expectations of the protocol, and one that led to more total losses due to excess txfees than the amount lost in the MtGox hack), but this is the argument that you need to be arguing against.

> Szabo’s law is not anti-political. It is a law that is aimed at shutting down political debate in order to guarantee Nick’s preferred political ends. I regard this kind of anti-social behavior to be bad-faith participation in blockchain governance.

Ultimately, what Szabo is trying to do is create a strong Schelling fence. And I definitely reject the idea that Schelling fences are anti-social. There is an inherent tradeoff between optionality on the side of those taking actions and certainty on the side of those receiving the consequences of the actions; Schelling fences are an attempt to support the latter. So to me Schelling fences are not about blocking participation, they’re about protecting non-participants (and minorities).

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To me what this is missing is specifics. What is an example of a specific proposal that violates Szabo’s Law in order to achieve some objective that we can expect actually is likely to lead to more good than ill?

I’ll help by listing possibilities [no comment on whether or not each one actually is remotely a good idea, more a braindump of things that people could hypothetically want]:

  • Protocol changes that print coins and direct them to specific producers of public goods relevant to the blockchain (eg. the Ethereum Foundation, eth2 client devs)
  • Protocol changes that print coins and direct them to per-person airdrops
  • Protocol changes that print coins and direct them to specific producers of public goods relevant to wider society (eg. print 2 million coins and give them to the Against Malaria Foundation)
  • Protocol changes that print coins and direct them to “credibly neutral” public goods mechanisms like liberal radical gadgets
  • Unstucking stuck funds
  • Resolving future DAO-like scenarios
  • Shutting down smart contracts associated with applications that are illegal and disapproved almost everywhere
  • Shutting down smart contracts associated with applications that violate sanctions that are supported by the US government, but opposed by Russia and/or China (or vice versa)
  • Shutting down smart contracts associated with applications that violate the sensibilities of the US Blue Tribe (eg. Gab)
  • Shutting down smart contracts associated with applications that the US Blue Tribe is totally cool with, but violate the sensibilities of other tribes (eg. something involving undocumented immigrants)
  • Deleting data from the state whose availability violates almost all of our moral sensibilities
  • Making protocol decisions with the intention of making the protocol less usable for more immoral kinds of applications (eg. if we believe very high levels of software autonomy are dangerous, then we could deliberately decide NOT to build in a layer-1 in-protocol MPC that would facilitate autonomous software that can hold secrets)

Which of these do you support, and which do you not? How confident are you that your views align with the majority, and how willing are you to accept majorities doing any of the above without your consent as the price to pay for being able to achieve any of the above as part of a majority without some minority’s consent? Are there categories of possibilities that you think about that I did not even list above?

    Vitalik Buterin

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