- Meet the “crypto commoners,” a left-oriented movement that thinks blockchain could hold the key to transforming a competitive society into a cooperative one.
- “They see [blockchain] as a way to enable greater cooperation among humans,” explained George Mason University professor Sarah Manski.
- For crypto commoners, blockchain could speed along such ambitious projects as a universal basic income and redefining value away from wages.
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Crypto fans come from strikingly varied ideological backgrounds – from libertarians to techno-anarchists to bog-standard centrist investors. There is even a more left-wing view of the technology, which says crypto and the underlying blockchain technology could help radically reorganize society.
While perhaps less often aired, the view is far from fringe. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey has said that bitcoin’s ultimate aim is to create world peace. MicroStrategy’s Michael Saylor, whose firm owns more than $5 billion in bitcoin, has said that the cryptocurrency represents “the apex property of the human race.”
Dorsey and Saylor are hitting many of the same notes as the “crypto commoners,” a left-oriented movement of technologists and activists who think blockchain could hold the key to transforming a competitive society into a cooperative one.
“There’s also this other track of people who have been working on making the world a better place, protecting the environment, helping with workers’ rights and fair trade,” George Mason University professor Sarah Manski, author of a recent “post-capitalist guide” to crypto commoners, told Insider.
“They see [blockchain] as a way to enable greater cooperation among humans, enable us to create shared wealth and distribute it more equally,” explained Manski. “They want to develop a world where the economic system is regenerative, rather than extractive.”
For crypto commoners, blockchain could speed along such ambitious projects as a universal basic income and redefining value away from wages, she said.
Manski gives the example of Uber, a company that relies on contractors to provide cheaper service by not paying the full benefits an employee would get. A blockchain-based version of Uber, by contrast, would act like a worker-owned cooperative, offering ride-sharing services while carving up the proceeds more equitably.
“You could use this technology to make Uber a worker-owned cooperative where the distributed ledger would do most of the accounting, verification, and organization. And then the workers themselves fairly distribute the profit amongst themselves and democratically decide on their own working conditions.”
Despite her lack of sympathies for a $60 billion publicly traded company, Manski said Coinbase’s recent dust-up with the Securities and Exchange Commission gave her pause.
“I’m no cheerleader for Coinbase … they’re not really part of this tech-commons movement,” she said. “But what I don’t want to see is the US government doing what China is doing and trying to ban this technology to protect its own interests – and the interests of big banks.”
“That ties everyone’s hands,” Manski added.
This sweeping view of blockchain’s potential is a jarring contrast against the right-wing overtones more often associated with crypto and blockchain.
For instance, dogecoin founder Jackson Palmer, in July decried crypto as an “inherently right-wing, hyper-capitalistic technology built primarily to amplify the wealth of its proponents.”
After putting out his anti-crypto rant on Twitter, he vowed to never again work in the industry, saying, “New technology can make the world a better place, but not when decoupled from its inherent politics or societal consequences.”
Yet while Palmer has become disillusioned, his career with dogecoin began on a very different note, highlighting the cooperative ethos that exists in certain corners of the crypto world.
“You know what I’m going to tell my grandkids?” Palmer said in a 2014 interview after raising $30,000 to provide service dogs to disabled children. “I’m going to tell them that we paired service dogs with children in need, off the back of a fucking joke.”