You can see the solutions brewing.
Some industries have already been upended by stealthy tech-age competitors. I save so much money traveling by using Airbnb to rent rooms instead of hotels. Airbnb finds me cheaper accommodations that are usually better than hotels. You can usually get a better location, with a full kitchen for half the price of a basic hotel room in the same area.
Because of Airbnb, I have more freedom, more choice, and my money goes further. When traveling I was once at the mercy of the hotel industry. Now hotels must compete with quality alternatives if they want my business.
And it is only a matter of time until the same options present themselves when it comes to choosing a better government.
I have highlighted Estonia as a country making strides in developing citizenship that has nothing to do with a physical location. While still in the early stages, e-residency could develop into full-fledged citizenship for people worldwide, without them ever having to set foot in Estonia. Currently, it allows people to more easily operate online businesses, open European bank accounts, and verify their identities online.
But just the fact that Estonia already sells e-residency to people worldwide is a huge leap forward, as we pointed out in September.
The Estonian government offers products to their citizens and foreigners which are not mandatory to buy. If they release a successful digital currency the wealth of the tiny nation, with only 1.3 million residents, could skyrocket.
Imagine if they started selling actual citizenship, with your very own passport, and access to a bank account outside your home country’s jurisdiction. There would be a tremendous worldwide market for such a product from a real legitimate government.
Currently, their e-residents are not truly Estonian residents. But that could change. If you could slash your taxes to zero, why wouldn’t you become an Estonian resident? They could even charge a pretty high one-time price for that product. It could save people enormous amounts of money in taxes.
Here is an actual path that a country could follow to become a voluntary service provider instead of a coercive monopoly.
Since writing that post in September, Estonia has outlined some possibilities for what their digital token might look like.
[Kasper] Korjus [Estonia’s Director of e-residency] has proposed three possible digital tokens that could serve e-Residents.
One proposal would use the cryptocurrency to incentivizes use of the e-Residency platform. It would reward contributors, and facilitate transactions within the online e-Residency portal. This is the online platform which offers business tools to e-Residents. Korjus says the cryptocurrency could be used among e-Residents to trade, for example, legal and financial services.
A similar proposal would tie the cryptocurrency’s value to the euro, and limit its use to the e-Residency community. E-Residents would change their euros into tokens which they could use on the platform. Individuals could redeem tokens for euros at any time, without risking a change in token value.
The third proposal would make the tokens less of a cryptocurrency, and more of a secure online identity used to access certain tools in the e-Residency portal. Your online identity would be tokenized and added to the blockchain. In the same way that you can track each individual Bitcoin preventing duplication, tokens attached to your identity could prevent online forgery…
E-Residency is a “solution looking for a problem,” as Korjus put it.
By integrating the e-Residency program with a state cryptocurrency, Estonia offers another solution which could solve a number of problems.
First, it provides a safer platform for cryptocurrency users and business owners by issuing a secure online identity.
Then companies can launch ICOs [Initial Coin Offerings] from the e-Residency platform. Here, they will already have access to many interested investors. By voluntarily submitting to Estonia’s ICO standards, this legitimizes ICOs hosted on the platform.
And finally Estonia creates an online marketplace for trade of services. Businesses can interact seamlessly without having to exchange national currencies, and deal with international regulations.
What this forms is the first digital nation. Korjus readily admits that Estonia does not know what the e-Residency or state backed cryptocurrency will evolve into. That direction depends on demand from e-Residents.
States are notoriously slow at adopting new technology. But Estonia is leading the way in bringing governance into the technological age.
It is rare to see countries act in such a forward thinking and “customer” friendly way. But Estonia took the lessons from years of Soviet rule to heart. It emerged from authoritarianism to forge a free market identity focused on economic growth with few regulations, and low taxes.
But governments aren’t the only players in the game.
Founder of BitNation, Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof said, “The purpose of BitNation is to create a full-blown blockchain based government service provider which is easy to use, affordable, non-geographically contingent, voluntary and trustless. By using the Blockchain technology – a cryptographically secure, distributed public ledger – we remove the need for the element of ‘trust’ which has previously been catered for by nation state governments.”
The idea is to empower individuals to be able to choose their government. This will force governments to compete for citizens. One day you might not have to change locations to change governments.
Currently, the platform allows you to form contracts with others anywhere in the world, and agree on arbitrators to resolve any disputes. This cuts costs, and removes the uncertainty from the often arbitrary government courts.
The first service offered on Pangea lets you create and join a Decentralized Borderless Voluntary Nation (DBVN) with a constitution and code of law of your choice.
If classic territorial governments continue to sink under their own weight, this structure could allow worldwide commerce and law to continue without descending into chaos.
Nation states are beginning to lose their grip on the money supply from competition from crypto-currencies and their own debasement of their currencies. Without a monopoly on money, it will become harder for governments to control the citizens.
The transition to voluntary governance need not be violent, tumultuous, or economically devastating. I don’t know if BitNation will be the one, or one of many options, that emerge to serve customers with this important service–easing the transition from monopolistic nation states to competition based voluntary governance.
But the more products like this that are created before any major Western economic or political crisis, the more likely we are to walk away from the upset of traditional government unscathed.
What to Expect
I can envision many paths for digital citizenship to take. But the truth is that we don’t really know where this movement will end up. And that is the great thing about competition. The customer is in control of what kinds of services and products will be developed to accommodate them.
This new industry of digital citizenship will serve the consumer demand. Already crypto-enthusiasts have joined Estonia’s e-residency program hoping it will develop into a tool for executing and participating in ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings). By joining early, they will be able to influence where the platform goes.
Similarly, Viktor Prokopenya has helped deregulate crypto-currency in Belarus as the country’s most prominent tech business investor. Crypto enthusiasts are migrating to Puerto Rico to take advantage of tax laws. They will have influence over future governance of the island, while helping to rebuild the hurricane–and debt-stricken territory.
The same goes for early adopters of BitNation. They will shape the products that the platform delivers.
Don’t underestimate the ability of individuals to build a better world, simply by serving their fellow man.
Currently, almost half of the wealth worldwide can be attributed to the rule of law. And yet the countries delivering this law operate in archaic ways. They are slow to change, and have no incentive to respond to their “customer’s” demands.
Prepare for an “upset” in the industry of governance. With so much value on the line, it is only a matter of time until better alternatives emerge to compete with current nation states.
Airbnb has provided me and many others tremendous value by giving us another option besides hotels. Innovative nations and technology-based alternatives will serve humanity in unprecedented ways.