Cryptocurrency-Based Law

Bitcoin is a protocol promoted as the first peer-to-peer institution—an alternative to a central bank. The decisions made through this protocol, however, involve no judgment. Could a peer-to-peer protocol underpin an institution that makes normative decisions? Indeed, an extension to the Bitcoin protocol could allow a cryptocurrency to make law. Tacit coordination games, in which players compete to identify consensus issue resolutions, would determine currency ownership. For example, an issue might be whether a cryptocurrency-based trust should disburse funds to a putative beneficiary, and the game’s outcome would resolve the question and result in gains or losses for coordination game participants. A cryptocurrency can also be used to generate rules or other written codes. Peer-to-peer law might be useful when official decision-makers are corrupt or when agency or transactions costs are high. A modest starting point for cryptocurrency-based governance would be as a replacement for Bitcoin’s centralized system for changing its source code. A cryptocurrency incorporating tacit coordination games could serve as a foundation for other projects requiring peer-to-peer governance, ranging from arbitration to business associations, which would enjoy inherent limited liability and would lack designated management.