The Political Economy of Australian Regulatory Reform

Published in the Australian Journal of Public Administration (together with Chris Berg, Aaron M Lane and Patrick A McLaughlin).

Abstract: The problem of regulatory accumulation has increasingly been recognised as a policy problem in its own right. Governments have then devised and implemented regulatory reform policies that directly seek to ameliorate the burdens of regulatory accumulation (e.g. red tape reduction targets). In this paper we examine regulatory reform approaches in Australia through the lens of policy innovation. Our contributions are twofold. We first examine the evolutionary discovery process of regulatory reform policies in Australia (at the federal, intergovernmental, and state levels). This demonstrates a process of policy innovation in regulatory mechanisms and measurements. We then analyse a new measurement of regulatory burden based on text analytics, RegData: Australia. RegData: Australia uses textual analysis to count ‘restrictiveness clauses’ in regulation – such as ‘must’, ‘cannot’ and ‘shall’ – thereby developing a new database (RDAU1.0). We place this ‘restrictiveness clauses’ measurement within the context of regulatory policy innovation, and examine the potential for further innovation in regulatory reform mechanisms.

The Cryptoeconomics of Cities, Data and Space

Published in Cosmos + Taxis (together with Chris Berg, Mikayla Novak, Kiersten Jowett and Jason Potts).

Abstract: We explore the connection between new decentralised data infrastructure and the spatial organisation of cities. Recent advances in digital technologies for data generation, storage and coordination (e.g. blockchain-based supply chains and proof-of-location services) enables more granulated, decentralised and tradeable data about city life. We propose that this new digital infrastructure for information in cities shifts the organisation and planning of city life downwards and opens new opportunities for entrepreneurial discovery. Compared to centralised governance of smart cities, crypto-cities can be understood as more emergent orderings. This paper introduces this research agenda on the boundaries of spatial economics, the economics of cities, information economics, institutional economics and technological change.

From Athens to the Blockchain: Oracles for Digital Democracy

Forthcoming paper in Frontiers in Blockchain (together with Marta Poblet, Oleksii Konashevych, Aaron M. Lane and Carlos A. Diaz Valdivia)

Abstract: Oracles were trusted sources of knowledge for public deliberation in classical Athens. Very much like expert and technical knowledge, divine advice was embedded in the deliberation and decision-making process of the democratic Assembly. While the idea of religious divination is completely out of place in our contemporary democracies, oracles made a technological comeback with modern computer science and cryptography and, more recently, the emergence of the blockchain as a “trust machine”. This paper reviews the role of oracles in Athenian democracy and, stemming from the renewed use of the term in computer sciences and cryptography, analyses the case of oracles in the nascent blockchain ecosystem. The paper also proposes a sociotechnical approach to the use of distributed oracles as informational devices to assist deliberative processes in digital democracy settings, and considers the limits that such an approach may face.

When Entrepreneurs Meet: The Collective Governance of New Ideas

Book forthcoming with World Scientific. Available for pre-order here.

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When Entrepreneurs Meet: The Collective Governance of New Ideas challenges our understanding of how entrepreneurs crystallize opportunities surrounding new technologies. Continue reading

The New Technologies of Freedom

Book published with the American Institute for Economic Research. Co-authored with Chris Berg and Sinclair Davidson. Available at Amazon.

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We are on the cusp of a dramatic wave of technological change – from blockchain to automated smart contracts, artificial intelligence and machine learning to advances in cryptography and digitisation, from Internet of Things to advanced communications technologies. Continue reading

How to Unfreeze the Post-Pandemic Economy

Article published at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) with Aaron M. Lane here

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Right now, economies around the world are frozen in an attempt to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments have pulled every policy lever to keep it that way, for the time being, to limit the spread of the virus. Many people think that the economy will be unfrozen just like we would turn a machine off and on again. But unfortunately economies don’t work like that—unfreezing won’t be nearly as easy as many assume. Continue reading

Unfreeze: How to Create a High Growth Economy After the Pandemic

Book published with the American Institute for Economic Research. Co-authored with Chris Berg, Sinclair Davidson, Aaron M. Lane and Jason Potts

Available at Amazon here.

We spell out the policy settings necessary for the rapid adaptation and market re-coordination that is required to resuscitate the economy. We explain why a return to business as usual is simply not enough to get everyone working again. A period of high growth prosperity will be imperative to deal with the costs of the freeze. This book tackles the tough questions and fills some of the current void of ideas and thinking about economic recovery. We develop a framework and principles for an institutional re-build, presenting a path to recovery based on the ideas of private governance, permissionless innovation, and entrepreneurial dynamism.

“Economies are not like video games that can be paused and then unpaused with no effect. Freezing an economy causes systematic problems, and unfreezing it requires systematic solutions. This book is a much needed well-researched study on what it will take to get the world up and running again.” ~ Jason Brennan, Georgetown University

The Governance of Blockchain Dispute Resolution

Published in the Harvard Negotiation Law Review (together with Aaron M Lane and Marta Poblet).

Abstract: Blockchain technology acts as infrastructure for self-executing smart contracts. Because contracts are incomplete and some parties are opportunistic, these new contracting possibilities have created challenges of dispute resolution. For instance, will smart contracts be recognised, and any disputes resolved, within the existing courts of jurisdictions? In this paper we first map some institutional governance possibilities for contracting parties (e.g. mediation, private arbitration, courts) to create a Dispute Resolution Possibility Frontier (DRPF). Second, we provide case studies of emerging blockchain-based mechanisms to solve dispute resolution challenges. Blockchain-based smart contracts might not only create dispute resolution problems, but also act as a technology for entrepreneurs to create new mechanisms to solve dispute problems, including those arising from traditional legal contracts. Contracting parties will subjectively interpret their most effective governance mechanism to resolve disputes, and the costs of dispute resolution will change over time through a process of institutional innovation.

Blockchain Governance: What We Can Learn from the Economics of Corporate Governance

Published in the Journal of the British Blockchain Association (with Chris Berg).

Abstract: Understanding the complexities of blockchain governance is urgent. The aim of this paper is to draw on other theories of governance to provide insight into the design of blockchain governance mechanisms. We define blockchain governance as the processes by which stakeholders (those who are affected by and can affect the network) exercise bargaining power over the network. Major considerations include the definition of stakeholders, how the consensus mechanism distributes endogenous bargaining power between those stakeholders, the interaction of exogenous governance mechanisms and institutional frameworks, and the needs for bootstrapping networks. We propose that on-chain governance models can only be partial because of the existence of implicit contracts that embed expectations of return among diverse stakeholders.

Blockchain and Investment: An Austrian Approach

Forthcoming in the Review of Austrian Economics (with Chris Berg, Sinclair Davidson and Jason Potts). Pre-print available on request.

Abstract: Investment is a function of expected profit, which involves calculation of the cost of trust. Blockchain technology is a new institutional technology (Davidson et al 2018) that industrialises trust (Berg et al 2018). We therefore expect that the adoption of blockchain technology into the economy will affect investment and capital structure. Using a broad Austrian economic approach, we examine how blockchain technology will affect the cost of trust, patterns of investment, and economic institutions.