Decisions within the governance model must be guided by the good of all humankind and by respect for the equal value of all human beings.
Human welfare depends on the sustainable management of global collective goods: peace, health, and nature. Our proposal creates a new global institution that stewards these transnational goods for the benefit of all citizens by linking the core values of equality and cooperation.
The intrinsic equality of all human beings requires that each individual be given equal power in the management of global collective goods, irrespective of gender, race, or any other characteristic. The Cooperative implements this democratic principle on a global scale: all individuals on the planet are entitled to a free voting share, granting them a voice in all funding and organizational decisions. To maximize flexibility and accountability, and to take advantage of the expertise of particular individuals in particular domains, citizen-trustees exercise this power in a delegative, rather than representative, manner.
Procedural equality, however, is not sufficient to ensure a prosperous future for humanity. The proposed design elevates inter-individual cooperation to a core value and a fundamental governance principle in the creation, curation, and evaluation of collective goods policies, programs, and projects. All members of the Cooperative are allowed—and indeed incentivized—to initiate and edit P3 proposals. The Cooperative is thus a platform for the production of collaborative solutions, providing its members with the opportunity to co-create safeguards against global risks. This new positive liberty—the freedom to cooperate—is central to the emergence of global democracy.
Decision-making within the governance model must generally be possible without crippling delays that prevent the challenges from being adequately addressed (e.g. due to parties exercising powers of veto).
The Cooperative contains strong decision-making mechanisms throughout the process of creating, choosing, and financing collective goods 3Ps.
First, the creation of 3Ps in current political systems is usually reserved to political elites, many of whom are not experts in the domain of a specific 3P. By contrast, the Cooperative distributes the creative process across a large community, and allows those with particular expertise to accumulate reputation for their contributions. The decision-making process is thus led by the most knowledgeable, with feedback from the entire population. This obviates the need for expert hearings and other procedures which sometimes slow down the traditional parliamentary process.
Second, final approval of 3Ps occurs through a liquid democratic voting process that again strikes a decision-making balance between universal suffrage and domain expertise. Each individual may participate directly in first-stage voting or delegate their vote to an expert or other trusted proxy—and make such a decision issue by issue. This is in contrast to typical voting procedures, where citizens are asked to vote in infrequent elections for representatives that make decisions across a broad set of issues, many of which may be outside their expertise. Delegative democracy allows for nuanced political preferences to be expressed by the citizenry, which is itself a bulwark against the political polarization afflicting many decision-making systems today; it is also free from electoral cycles, which can interfere with decision-making processes at all scales.
Third, decision-making about financing 3Ps is again handled through a liquid democratic process, instead of being controlled by relatively rigid bureaucracies, as in nation-states and multilateral organizations. Citizen-trustees delegate their vote to Councilors, the most trusted of which make the final decision on financing. The existence of Councils allows for 3Ps to be financed in a coordinated portfolio rather than as isolated projects, which facilitates longer-term thinking about collective goods management. In addition, the small size of these Councils allows for more efficient negotiation and voting. At the same time, however, the delegative structure is highly fluid: ineffective Councilors can be removed at any time based on transparent records of past decisions, and trusted individuals can remain Councilors for extended periods, ensuring a continuity of vision in collective goods management.
The governance model must be capable of handling the global challenges and risks and include means to ensure implementation of decisions.
This proposal asserts that management of collective goods is an essential part of addressing global challenges and risks. It further argues that neither states nor market actors can perform this function effectively, and proposes the creation of a Global Cooperative of citizen-trustees to fill the gap. Within this framework, effective management can be split into three components: (i) the production of relevant, impactful solutions; (ii) a mechanism to generate global consensus around solutions; and (iii) financial resources to fund the implementation of solutions.
The proposed design leverages the powerful mechanism of peer production to produce effective 3P solutions for collective goods management. Peer production is battle-tested in fields such as software development (Linux), knowledge aggregation (Wikipedia), and crypto-economics (Bitcoin), where it has consistently led to high-quality outputs resilient to external attacks and internal errors. Online cooperation between individuals is becoming the dominant mode of production in the information economy, primarily because it has the potential to create more value—in both an informational and financial sense—than more traditional modes of production. In essence, what a closed group of experts or administrators cannot achieve, a coordinated global community can.
The effectiveness of the Cooperative rests not only on its ability to generate ideas, but also to achieve consensus on those ideas and fund them. The Cooperative creates an agile, inclusive, and accountable voting structure based on chains of trust—wherein individuals may pass their vote to experts or trusted proxies—and the ability to instantly withdraw a delegated vote. Such “liquid democracy” has been successfully tested in both political parties and private companies; Google has recently concluded a three-year experiment with the assessment that “it is possible to implement a liquid democracy system on a social network in a scalable manner with a gradual learning curve”. In addition, the Cooperative depends on small groups of knowledgeable, trusted individuals—the Councilors—to lead the process of pulling 3Ps together into a cohesive whole. The combination of popular will and expert leadership leads to a vision for collective goods management that is diverse, adaptive to circumstances, and sustainable—and free from the collective action problem associated with national interests.
Finally, the funding of effective solutions on a global scale requires access to large amounts of capital. We describe how our proposal meets that criterion in the next paragraph.
Resources and Financing
The governance model must have sufficient human and material resources at its disposal, and these resources must be financed in an equitable manner.
The Cooperative is designed to mobilize adequate human and financial resources for the management of the world’s collective goods. Its potential to do so far exceeds the capacity of any existing global governance institution. The United Nation Secretariat, for example, employs just over 40 thousand staff; the Cooperative may one day rely on tens (or hundreds) of millions of contributors. Digital infrastructure permits such scale, as evidenced by the immense size of online communities; as of this writing, ten online communities had more than 100 million active users, and another 42 had at least 10 million active users. Even very occasional contributions from such a large community will provide the Cooperative with many orders of magnitude more person-hours towards global governance than is possible in multilateral institutions.
With respect to financial resources, the Cooperative is a viable savings and investment vehicle for individuals wishing to make a social impact. Global savings equal approximately one-quarter of the gross world product, totaling about $27 trillion; the market capitalization of the world’s stock exchanges is $66 trillion. Only a small fraction of these totals would need to be invested in the Cooperative to build a large investment pool for collective goods 3Ps. Even a $1 trillion/year stock of financial capital would represent a budget nearly 200 times greater than that of the United Nations. Unlike funding from multilateral organizations subject to influence from geopolitical interests, or private foundations that determine their spending priorities without meaningful public input, sourcing capital in this manner is fundamentally equitable: most people on Earth have at least some savings, and are therefore entitled to benefit from the value unlocked by the sound management of global collective goods.
Trust and Insight
The trust enjoyed by a successful governance model and its institutions relies on transparency and considerable insight into power structures and decision-making.
Trust is an important component of any robust governance model, but this requirement is particularly critical in distributed systems with a great number of individual actors. This is why every process within the Cooperative is completely transparent: the creation and evaluation of 3Ps, the delegation of voting power to the parliamentary bodies, the decisions made by the bodies, financial transactions, the evolution of reputation, and so on. The framework itself is open-source, as is the information repository and its contents.
Transparency, however, is not sufficient for the emergence of trust. Also necessary are (i) the possibility of win-win situations and (ii) repeated interactions. Win-win situations in the Cooperative exist on two levels: by working together on 3Ps, citizen-trustees can earn reputation and, through improving the quality of ideas, potentially increase the returns on their investment; and by successfully protecting global collective goods, they can improve their quality of life, as well as that of their descendants. The social network infrastructure allows repeated interactions with partners—a gradual construction of community networks over which ideas are shared.
Additionally, the blockchain infrastructure provides what has been called “trustless trust”—trust in the outcome of a process without trust in the parties involved. Because the entire (informational and financial) database of the Cooperative is stored in a decentralized, immutable database, the counterparty risk is low, as is the possibility that an external actor (e.g., a malevolent state) shuts down or otherwise impedes the operations of Cooperative. The $150 billion market capitalization of cryptocurrencies, which are not tied to any real-world assets and whose sole value is the trust that actors place in their distributed blockchain infrastructure, illustrates the importance of this point.
In summary, the proposed governance model aims to establish institutional trust through interpersonal trust. This idea is, arguably, the very foundation of democracy.
In order to be able to fulfill its objectives effectively, a successful governance model must contain mechanisms that allow for revisions and improvements to be made to its structure and components.
Current global governance structures lack institutional flexibility, either because of the power of veto players (e.g., the members of the U.N. Security Council) or bureaucratic inertia. The Cooperative avoids these pitfalls by being (i) both transnational and transpartisan, and (ii) non-bureaucratic.
The world’s most powerful nation-states, in many cases, have a strategic interest in preserving the geopolitical status quo, despite its potentially disastrous effects on collective goods. Reform of multilateral institutions, including improvements in decision-making that could facilitate more effective, flexible stewardship of peace, health, and nature, is consequently very difficult. The Cooperative functions on a very different basis. Instead of representing national interests—or special interests and veto players of any kind— it embodies the constant flow of ideas within the human community. Useful revisions of its structure, proposed by any one of its members and collectively selected through the liquid-democratic process, can thus be approved in comparatively very little time. Constitutional revisions, while they do require a supermajority of the three councils, in turn can be passed with the support of just 14 individuals, backed by the delegated power of the Cooperative’s community.
A second key characteristic of the Cooperative is its thin bureaucratic infrastructure. Beyond staffing requirements for the maintenance of the digital infrastructure, the Cooperative employs relatively few full-time workers. This greatly limits the opportunity for vested interests, and ensures that the Cooperative forever remains a public good. Moreover, citizen-trustees and delegates who obstruct the goals of the Cooperative rapidly lose their reputational standing and delegated support.
In contrast to traditional international organizations controlled by nation-states and burdened by ponderous bureaucracies, the Cooperative acts as a lively network of ideas, endowed with a flexible consensus mechanism and vigilant against internal threats of obstruction and vested interest.
Protection against the Abuse of Power
A control system must be in place to take action if the organization should overstep its mandate, e.g. by unduly interfering with the internal affairs of nation-states or favouring the special interests of individuals, groups, organizations, states or groups of states.
The Cooperative is a fundamentally inclusive entity, in which every man or woman in the world is entitled to a voice as a citizen-trustee. Moreover, every decision is made through completely transparent processes and involves the consent of the whole community, from the design of 3Ps to their final selection. For these reasons, the Cooperative is not strongly vulnerable to collusion and the influence of special interests.
However, the Cooperative’s design does contain two layers of protection against the abuse of power, one activated by state jurisdiction and the other by market mechanisms. Firstly, and crucially, all members of the Cooperative remain citizens of their respective countries, and national laws fully apply to them. Any illegal action or declaration by a member will be punished by the states themselves. This applies more broadly to the Cooperative as a whole; ultimately, it exists through the implicit consent of nation-states.
Secondly, the Cooperative has no authority to raise taxes or fund itself without citizen-trustee support; its existence depends on the consent of individuals, as manifest through the buying of investment shares. If the Cooperative proves ineffective at managing the world’s collective goods—or, worse, proves dangerous for the human community as a whole—the withdrawal of capital by investors would immediately halt its operation. The Cooperative has a mandate to exercise governance over global collective goods, yet remains fully accountable through normal market mechanisms.
It is a fundamental requirement of a successful governance model that it performs the tasks it has been charged with, and the governance model must include the power to hold the decision-makers accountable for their actions.
Accountability is a basic determinant of trust and a necessary safeguard against corruption, collusion, and other actions that would undermine the mission of the Cooperative. The organization has three strong mechanisms in place to ensure accountability, the first for citizen-trustees, the second for Councilors, and the last for the community as a whole.
The primary threat posed by citizen-trustees is in the 3P creation process—the marketing of a 3P that appears to further the Cooperative’s mission, but instead serves special interests. Distributed networks like the Cooperative, however, are resistant to such internal attacks, as is evident in peer-produced projects like Wikipedia. The vigilance of the community ensures that members who attempt to undermine the Cooperative will lose reputation, and thus lose the ability to convincingly advance 3P proposals or “run for office”.
With respect to Councilors, the liquid-democratic structure chosen for the Cooperative provides the highest possible level of accountability: continuous accountability. This means that, should a council member act in ways that favor clearly identified special interests, the community can immediately terminate their role within the council by withdrawing their support. In this way, misguided or unpopular decisions are immediately sanctioned, and untrustworthy delegates replaced.
Finally, the actions of the Cooperative as a whole are checked by the High Council, which contains four externally appointed members. Should a 3P interfere with the sovereignty of a nation-state, or otherwise overstep its mandate to manage the world’s collective goods, a majority vote on the High Council can decide to block its funding from going forward.