With OpenGov landing on Polkadot in a few days I’d like to take a step back and see where we actually want to go as an ecosystem. I’d like to make the case that OpenGov is a plutocracy and doesn’t fit the requirements of a desirable governance model for web3. I’d like to argue why quadratic voting would provide a healthier middle ground on the spectrum between plutocracy and one-person-one-vote democracy.
Governance should derive its authority from legitimate sources. PoS and token voting as in OpenGov are legitimate in the sense that those who have more to lose have more to say. In an unbounded and pure market the capital will accumulate at very few individuals. A global one person one vote democracy, on the other hand, would not be legitimate for Polkadot because it would give people a vote who don’t care about Polkadot, are not affected by its decisions and have nothing at stake.
Governance should encourage the active participation and inclusion of all individuals and groups affected by its decisions. This is where OpenGov will fail. On Kusama it became obvious that referenda are decided by very few individuals and that an assumed 95% of all votes casted are absolutely irrelevant (not knowing how many humans are behind those 95% - nor the other 5%). This will lead to resignation and a lack of representation of many people who are affected by governance decisions. Vote delegation and conviction voting may help ease the plutocracy a little bit. Delegation helps with meritocratic representation and conviction voting may help protect the interests of minorities. But I don’t believe that we can be satisfied with this.
Quadratic voting applies the square root to the weight of committed tokens used for voting per account and therefore reduces the effect of capital vs. personhood while still giving capital a strong (enough) voice. By adjusting the exponent, one could even to some extent tune the balance between one-person-one-vote and one token one vote.
Quadratic voting, however, can only work in sybil-resilient system. The following simple example shall show why this is the case (for simplicity, conviction is 1x):
Uncle Scrooge votes Aye with 25 DOT
4 other people vote Nay with 4 DOT
- In token voting, it’s 25 vs 16, so it is an Aye
- In one-person-one-vote it’s a 1 to 4, so it’s a Nay
- In quadratic voting its sqrt(25) to 4 * sqrt(4) = 5 to 8, so it’s a Nay
Now, Uncle Scrooge is clever and distributes his funds evenly on 25 accounts
- now it’s 25 * sqrt(1) vs 4 * sqrt(4) = 25 to 8, so it’s Aye
So, a sybil attack can change the outcome, given the same capital distribution
How can Polkadot governance become sybil-resilient?
- State issued ID’s could be used for KYC (i.e. as recently announced by KILT&deloitte)
- Biometric Identity based (I’m not gonna go there and argue elsewhere why this is the least desirable option)
- Social Graph based (i.e. BrightID)
- Pseudonym Parties (in-person, like Encointer or virtual)
For more details I recommend to read this amazing paper by Bryan Ford: Identity and Personhood in Digital Democracy: Evaluating Inclusion, Equality, Security, and Privacy in Pseudonym Parties and Other Proofs of Personhood