Imagine having the power to declare something legitimate with the stroke of a pen, the press of a stamp, or the enter button on your keyboard.
The government has that power. But it is part of the magical myth of government legitimacy. That is the main service government provides: legitimacy.
It can make stealing legitimate. It can make kidnapping legitimate. It can make assassinations, genocides, and wars legitimate.
And the government can also make housing deeds legitimate. They do the official processing to make sure that everything is in order. In their sacred temple of city hall, they bless the official papers with holy stamps, and all is right.
Except when it’s not.
New York City approved fraudulent papers which allowed a man to “officially” steal a woman’s house.
The forged deed was homemade, but the city government still processed it. They said stopping the fake deed from being processed would have been like finding a needle in a haystack. It sounds pretty easy to steal someone’s property with forged documents using the government’s system of verification.
After years of effort, the woman, Jennifer Merin, was finally able to hold the man accountable. He is now serving a year in prison.
But holding the city accountable is another story.
Merin, 74, had sued the city for not catching the forgery when the paperwork was first filed, but lost on appeal when the court backed a judge who said she couldn’t prove the city was negligent.
The feisty homeowner is fuming and has vowed to fight the decision.
“I find it absolutely astonishing and sickening that the city that gave away my property without due process by registering an obviously fraudulent deed, while it was still charging me for taxes on that property and water usage on that property, is now insisting that it has no accountability for those actions,” Merin told the Daily News.
Big governments are a lot like big corporations in some ways. They are dinosaurs. They can not maneuver and change with the times. In business, these megacorporations usually end up being upset by small startups with innovative business models.
And the same could happen with government.
In April last year, the government and bitcoin hardware and software firm Bitfury Grouplaunched a project to register land titles via a private blockchain, which is a tamper-proof ledger, and then to make those transactions verifiable using bitcoin’s blockchain, which is public…
In a blockchain-based ledger, records are time-stamped, as are subsequent changes to those records. This would allow people interested in a specific property to see and verify the date of past transactions.
Additionally, data on blockchains can be made private or public. In this case, the details of the real estate transactions are placed on a private blockchain network run by known computers, and then, in order for citizens to verify the authenticity of certificates, that data can be turned into a cryptographic “hash” that’s made public on the bitcoin blockchain which is run by thousands of computers worldwide. The hash is a type of digital fingerprint that enables anyone to verify that the data matches what’s on the blockchain without seeing the data itself.
Finally, blockchain technology brings security to real estate transactions because there’s no central point of failure. The ledger is distributed among many computers, so a would-be hacker would need to simultaneously attack at least 51% of the network in order to fraudulently alter records.
Whether or not you believe Bitcoin is a real currency or a big bubble, the underlying technology is legitimate.
The blockchain is legitimate because it hosts independently verifiable information. It is legitimate because it cannot be tampered with, and holds a permanent record of transactions. It is legitimate because it is decentralized, and can be used by individuals without trusting in government competence.
Blockchain legitimacy has nothing to do with the myth of magical government action. And that is why its future is bright.