What do we mean by public goods and common good?

In a recent discussion about Encointer’s (currently failing) proposal #2578 Encointer Lease2 Treasury Proposal 2/2 the team made a case for extending the funding of “public goods”

We can’t just postpone salaries and hope for better times. Of course, we can ramp down - and that’s what we’ll have to do if we cannot secure continuous funding. And this may jeopardize what we have built so far. I think Keynes is still not out of fashion when he stated that public funding should increase in times of depression. That’s what the treasury already does in a way. And we believe it is what it should be doing.

and I asked:

how do you the encointer team define “common goods” - both within the context of this ecosystem and more broadly? (politically, economically and culturally)

In a recent ep of AAG, @tom.stakeplus proposed that the community should be more critical of funding for parachain teams that aren’t ‘true public goods’.

Outside of the ecosystem, Vitalik has pushed the funding of public goods as a key feature of Ethereum’s roadmap and now it seems public goods funding is the next narrative after defi, NFTs and DAOs.

But what do we mean by public or common goods? Here is one evolving definition, albeit still using fancy words that no normal person would be familiar.

Just as terms such as decentralisation and Web3 have become practically meaningless, so public/common goods is another term set for its primetime marketing moment as everyone piles on board to claim their own definitions.

Without establishing some common language and appropriate boundaries ahead of the inevitable wave of marketing noise, it would be a useful exercise to establish views here.

Some prompts - but feel free to establish your own starting/reference points.

  • What does public/common good mean within this ecosystem of relays, parachains and collectives?

  • What or who even is ‘the public’ we are referencing?

  • Why should we care about public goods, services and infrastructure?

  • What does it mean in terms of standards, incentives, products, funding, governance and network taxonomies?

  • What does it mean in terms of sustainability? (another word that has been rendered practically meaningless).

Interested in the varying perspectives we no doubt have here.


Public in this context is a synonym for token holder.

A common good is something that benefits all token token holders. For example a bridge allowing DOT to pass to and from Polkadot - Kusama would be a common good. A common bad, like a bug that causes extra long block times for example, is something that damages all token holders.

System Parachain is generally preferred over the term “common good” parachain. These are allocated a parachain execution core by governance rather than auction. Because they are allocated by governance, the public (token holders) have deemed these system parachains to be worth supporting with system resources and treasury funds.

In terms of “standards, incentives, products, funding, governance and network taxonomies” it means that if you want your product funded by governance you will need to get ayes from a majority of voting token holders. The standard incentive from this is to find a way to a provide a product the voting token holders are willing to fund through governance. Taxonomy is not effected.

In terms of sustainability, if we design good businesses where all parties benefit from the activity then they will become self sustaining. Think of bitcoin - It needed a little push at the start (write the code and push it out) but once the code got in harmony with human action it became self sustaining with everyone acting in their own perceived self interest. That’s good business.