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.

Blockchain and the Evolution of Institutional Technologies: Implications for Innovation Policy

Forthcoming in Research Policy

Abstract: For the past century economists have proposed a suite of theories relating to industrial dynamics, technological change and innovation. There has been an implication in these models that the institutional environment is stable. However, a new class of institutional technologies — most notably blockchain technology — lower the cost of institutional entrepreneurship along these margins, propelling a process of institutional evolution. This presents a new type of innovation process, applicable to the formation and development of institutions for economic governance and coordination. This paper develops a replicator dynamic model of institutional innovation and proposes some implications of this innovation for innovation policy. Given the influence of public policies on transaction costs and associated institutional choices, it is indicated that policy settings conductive to the adoption and use of blockchain technology would elicit entrepreneurial experiments in institutional forms harnessing new coordinative possibilities in economic exchange. Conceptualisation of blockchain-related public policy an innovation policy in its own right has significant implications for the operation and understanding of open innovation systems in a globalised context.

Backing blockchain with strong policy

[This article was published at Policy Forum]

Blockchain technology offers several benefits for the world’s industries and supply chains, but as investment grows, there must be a simultaneous increase in robust international policy coordination, Darcy Allen writes.

Blockchain technology will bring the next wave of globalisation by radically upgrading the world’s trade infrastructure. Continue reading

International policy coordination for blockchain supply chains

Published in Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

Abstract: From the adoption of the shipping container to coordinated trade liberalization, reductions in trade costs have propelled modern globalization. In this paper, we analyse the application of blockchain to reduce the trade costs of producing and coordinating trusted information along supply chains. Consumers, producers, and governments increasingly demand information about the quality, characteristics, and provenance of traded goods. Partially due to the risks of error and fraud, this information is costly to produce and to maintain between dispersed parties. Recent efforts have sought to overcome these costs—such as paperless trade agendas—through the application of new technologies. Our focus is on how blockchain technology can form a new decentralized economic infrastructure for supply chains by governing decentralized dynamic ledgers of information about goods as they move. We outline the potential economic consequences of blockchain supply chains before examining policy. Effective adoption faces a range of policy challenges including regulatory recognition and interoperability across jurisdictions. We propose a high‐level policy forum in the Asia‐Pacific region to coordinate issues such as open standards and regulatory compatibility.

Blockchain and supply chains: V-form organisations, value redistributions, de-commoditisation and quality proxies

Published in The Journal of the British Blockchain Association

Abstract: We apply institutional cryptoeconomics to the information problems in global trade, model the incentives under which blockchain-based supply chain infrastructure will be built, and make predictions about the future of supply chains. We argue blockchain will change the patterns and dynamics of how, where and what we trade by: (1) facilitating new forms of economic organisation governing supply chain coordination (such as the V-form organisation); (2) decreasing information asymmetries and shifting economic power towards the ends of supply chains (e.g. primary producers); (3) changing the dimensions along which we can reliably differentiate goods and therefore de-commoditising goods and disaggregating price signals; and (4) decreasing consumer reliance on quality proxies (e.g. production within national borders).

Blockchain: An entangled political economy approach

Published in the Journal of Public Finance and Public Choice 

Abstract: This paper incorporates blockchain activities into the broader remit of entangled political economy theory, emphasising economic and other social phenomena as the emergent by-product of human interactions. Blockchains are a digital technology combining peer-to-peer network computing and cryptography to create an immutable decentralised public ledger. The blockchain contrasts vintage ledger technologies, either paper-based or maintained by in-house databases, largely reliant upon hierarchical, third-party trust mechanisms for their maintenance and security. Recent contributions to the blockchain studies literature suggest that the blockchain itself poses as an institutional technology that could challenge existing forms of coordination and governance organised on the basis of vintage ledgers. This proposition has significant implications for the relevance of existing entangled relationships in the economic, social and political domains. Blockchain enables non-territorial ‘crypto-secession’, not only reducing the costs associated with maintaining ledgers, but radically revising and deconcentrating data-conditioned networks to fundamentally challenge the economic positions of legacy firms and governments. These insights are further illuminated with reference to finance, property and identity cases. Entangled political economy provides a compelling lens through which we can discern the impact of blockchain technology on some of our most important relationships.

Blockchains and the boundaries of self-organized economies: predictions for the future of banking

Book chapter published in Banking Beyond Banks and Money

Abstract: This chapter uses economic theory to explore the implications of the blockchain technology on the future of banking. We apply an economic analysis of blockchains based on both new institutional economics and public choice economics. Our main focus is on the economics of why banks exist as organizations (rather than a world in which all financial transactions occurring in markets), and how banks are then impacted by technological change that affects transaction costs. Our core argument is that blockchains are more than just a new technology to be applied by banks, but rather compete with banks as organizations, enabling banking transactions to shift out of centralized hierarchical organizations and back into decentralized markets. Blockchains are a new institutional technology — because of how they affect transaction costs in financial markets — that will fundamentally re-order the governance of the production of banking services. We then explore this implication through broader political economy lens in which banking moves out of organizations and deeper into markets. We examine this as a form of institutional economic evolution in which the boundary of catallaxy — i.e., a self-organized economy — is enlarged, at the margin of the banking sector. Such institutional competition enables evolutionary discovery in the institutions of banking.