The views expressed in this report are those of the authors. Their statements are not necessarily endorsed by the affiliated organisations or the Global Challenges Foundation.

Could new technologies offer governance alternatives to the Westphalian Nation State? This is the model proposed by BITNATION Pangea, the world’s first virtual nation, where contracts are negotiated and enforced through secure blockchain technology.

Our current governance model – the Westphalian Nation State – has created a geographical apartheid from which billions are unable to escape.

Since the development of technologies for accurate map making in the late 16th Century, governance has been defined by the centralised, territorial and – arguably – coercive Nation State model. Born at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Governance 1.0 provides security and administers jurisdiction across defined territories. Over the following centuries, this model has spread from Europe over the rest of the world, and now encompasses the whole globe (apart from the uninhabitable continent of Antarctica). Residents of territories governed according to this model have no option but to accept the national interpretation of security and jurisdiction, whether or not it works in their interests. If your Nation State rejects your identity or lifestyle – if you are gay in Uganda or Muslim in Myanmar, for example – there are few ways to exit your geographical location and choose a governance service provider that meets your needs.  

Yet in the 21st Century, for many people on the planet, these broad territorial distinctions have become much less important to both social and economic existence, and the territorial governance model is increasingly irrelevant to the way many of us lead our lives. Through globalization, as more of our property and interactions become digital, various national systems of security and jurisdiction are beginning to merge. Our trajectories are becoming at once more local and more global, leaving the nation state behind: a beached whale stranded between tidelines. As maps created the technology for the development of Nation States, the rapid development of the Blockchain, and in particular Smart Contract technologies, is opening new horizons in the ‘glocal’ space. Smart contracts are computer protocols that facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract, or that make a contractual clause unnecessary. These technologies create the potential for peer-to-peer online governance modalities that will eventually out-compete the increasingly redundant Nation State.

Thanks to the Blockchain technology, we have the chance to not only re-invent governance, but fundamentally replace the Nation State.

Why is this the case? Right now, one way to think of political organization is that we consent to give our personal sovereignty to Nation States – and multilateral organizations such as the UN and EU – on the understanding that only their judicial, legal and law enforcement institutions can effectively protect our lives and property. But Nation States and Multilateral organizations cut a hard bargain in return for security and jurisdiction, and, like any extortion racket, make unreasonable demands on our lives and property in return for protection. They may insist that we risk our lives in war, submit to the monitoring of our personal communications or give up large proportions of our earnings for services that we neither use or desire. Mass democracy, many argue, has made Nation States more accountable to people – and yet it is a very crude instrument, which (to paraphrase Socrates) is at worst mob rule and at best gives the majority a limited choice over which one-size-fits-all policies they are to be subjected to for the next four or five years.  

So how can we build a governance model that reflects current social and economic reality? Imagine if we could make and enforce contracts without recourse to Nation State intermediaries who may use that power to limit our choices and place unreasonable demands on our time and resources? Thanks to the Blockchain technology, we have the chance to not only re-invent governance, but fundamentally replace the Nation State. This new model was first fully articulated by Tarkowski Tempelhof in the BITNATION Whitepaper of 2014, under the name Decentralized Borderless Voluntary Nation (DBVN).

So how would this work practically? Let’s imagine an alternative governance universe in which we could solve a dispute about an asset through a smartphone chat – cutting out the high costs, time inefficiencies and potential coercion and arbitrariness of Nation State legal, judicial and law enforcement processes. What if a certain emoticon called upon a Blockchain Smart Contract functionality – including an escrow account embedded in the system, allowing a third party to hold title to the assets in question while the dispute is settled – made according to the code of law and the arbitration method that we have chosen to settle the dispute. And what if all of that could be done in less than two minutes for minimal cost from the comfort of a mobile phone?  This is the vision of BITNATION Pangea.

BITNATION Pangea will provide functionality in core areas required to provide an effective jurisdiction, so that it can outcompete those provided by Nation States:

Code of Law

  • You can choose an existing code of law (e.g. Common Law, Sharia Law or the
  • Civil Code), or upload a different code of law.

Arbitration

  • You choose Arbitrator(s).
  • You can choose a crowd Jury.

Enforcement

  • The system includes Multisig Escrow – a third party account – to hold mutual assets (money, tokenized land titles, car titles, etc).
  • A reputation system serves as an incentive for contract compliance.
  • Physical enforcement happens through private security.

This is why we believe that BITNATION Pangea – the world’s first Blockchain Jurisdiction – will provide the core functionalities required to escape the redundant confines of Nation-State governance, and herald the dawn of a new renaissance – an era of discovery, opportunity and radical abundance for the territorially oppressed.

Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof

Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof is Founder and CEO of Bitnation. Bitnation is the world’s first Cryptonation, a blockchain powered Governance 2.0 Operating System. Bitnation is designed to disrupt the nation state oligopoly through offering more convenient, secure and cost-efficient governance services. Susanne previously worked as a contractor doing research in various frontier and emerging markets on politics, culture, and governance.

James Fennell Tempelhof

James Fennell Tempelhof is Operations Manager of Bitnation, and leads the Bitnation refugee and security programs. He has a broad experience as a consultant and project manager providing innovative analysis and solutions to conflict and security issues, with a significant track records providing security advice and operational support in challenging environments across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe.