The Solution to the Breakdown in Public Blockchains Governance

Posted in: ArchiveOp-ed
August 1, 2016 8:02 PM UTC

The most exciting thing to happen in the digital currency space since its invention is the controversial hardfork of Ethereum. Unlike much of what has gone before, the hardfork brings to the forefront an immense power of public blockchains, full freedom for all and free market based choice.

There is, currently, a debate on whether the fork was successful or not. As we are in the mist of it, all we have is opinions. Mine is that the fork was the greatest achievement in this space since the invention of digital currencies. I’m sure, however, some will disagree, not without reason, but not because of any talking point they use. It is a fact as certain as any fact can be that any public blockchain is mutable in that it can be forked by anyone at anytime for any reason whatever with no one able to stop or prevent it. It’s their whole point. However, as I have already highlighted, there was a mistake, not by developers, miners, or the community, but by what I consider to be the third pillar of public blockchain governance, exchanges and businesses.

I believe this mistake is due to an imposition of opinion on how public blockchains work, rather than observation, analysis, or learning from experience. Somehow, a meme arose in this space that miners are judges, jury and executioners. That any decision is fully up to them and the rest should just hope that the miners take into view their account with the assumption being that if they do not there is little that can be done. This belief is so deep that it transcends any divide and is perfectly exemplified by on-chain scaling developers leaving the decision fully and wholly up to miners and not just 51% of them, but an incredible 75%, which finds no basis on any studies of human nature, decision making, and has no empirical support or analysis. In short,

In short, the threshold is just an act of faith and assumption with no basis whatever except for general feeble opinion.

The incorrectness of this assumption is proven by the events following Ethereum’s hardfork. There too, all exchanges of note, delegated their duty and responsibility by stating they will follow the longest chain, including Poloniex. A statement that seemed reasonable to all, at the time, to such extent that no one I am aware of raised any criticism of such choice. But, that wasn’t a choice. It was instead a means to shield responsibility and thus allow either of them to break away, suddenly, with no warning, nor announcement, while, opening them not to any criticism.

One can say that Poloniex stabbed all in the back for, technically, they cheated, in stating they will follow the longest chain and yet listed the shorter one too, without any warning or indication. However, in absence of exchanges taking responsibility prior to the fork, the counterargument is sufficiently obvious.

On the other hand, bitcoin exchanges and businesses loudly proclaimed their support for a hardfork, but, they too, bowed down to miners, asking for their permission, with bitcoin exchanges and businesses remaining bowed to the 2-3 bitcoin miners, who are easily directly influenced, thus submitting themselves and the entire ecosystem to just two or three individuals.

The breakdown in public blockchain governance, therefore, is solely due to a mistaken belief that miners are judges, jury and executioner, when, as we have now seen, they are merely enforcers, which certainly gives them a say, but, far less from any decision-making power. The solution is for the pillar which has the most power where there are two development teams, to recognize their jurisdiction, take responsibility, and publicly adjudicate and decide on what they will do, regardless of the actions/choices of others.

In this context, one can start appreciating a bit more Nakamoto’s wisdom, who, with hindsight, we can say clearly knew how decisions in this space are actually made and thus had no worry about server farms, for, afterall, the decision is left to the most decentralized layer of all, businesses and, by proxy, each individual, in the free market space.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely that of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to

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Last modified: May 21, 2020 10:19 AM UTC

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Andrew Quentson @Aquentson

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