Crypto-bros are buying the U.S. Constitution (literally)

A blueprint for how decision making might work in the future.

Hi amigos,

No well articulated newsletter today unfortunately. That’s how it goes when I spend my entire writing Sunday on an airplane. Or have way too many interesting articles to read. Or have 25 new DeFi projects to research. Or all of the above.

Instead, I’ll be lazy and simply point you to someone who isn’t resting on his writing laurels. That someone is Packy McCormick, who a few hours ago published the exact post I considered writing this afternoon. The same topic, the same points, similar reflections.. only difference is that Packy wrote it out, while I just thought about it.

Here is the piece. It’s called “Let’s buy the US Constitution”, and it is about the ConstitutionalDAO, a Decentralized Autonomous Organisation (DAO) that was formed a few days ago with the sole intention of buying the US Constitution. Yes, literally.

Long story short: there were printed 500 examples of the constitution when it was written back in the late 1700s. Only 11 of those originals remain today. Only one of the 11 is held in private ownership. That one constitution will be listed at an auction this week with a listing price of $20 million…

You see where this is going. A bunch of crypto bros has decided to buy it. So they’ve created a DAO, which is sort of like an internet-native corporation, and has already raised over $3 million from people who want to take part in this project.

Here is their explanation for why they want to do this, in their own words:

“We believe that The US Constitution is a shared good and should be shared and displayed in public spaces — by the people whose governance and freedom it was created to protect. By purchasing it with a DAO, we distribute the responsibility among many, and provide the infrastructure to keep the Constitution preserved.”

The people involved seem to share a sense of American patrotism, and are willing to donate their own, hard-earned money to take part in this unprecedented collective purchase of a document with extreme significance in American history. This donor, who gave 0.05ETH, about $250, summed up his motivation in this poetic manner, for example:

Brilliant wordplay, most certainly. But will they/we (I intend to join the DAO myself) succeed? That is not so certain, but we’ll know within four days.

Is it a fun and interesting project, no matter what the outcome will be? Absolutely, if you ask me. But why exactly is this interesting?

Because it’s a perfect image of what the crypto community and crypto technology can do in the future.

First of all, it proves, in an attention-grabbing way, that people can come together online, self-organise into a collective, gather digital resources (in this case capital in the form of the cryptocurrency Ether) and then make decisions with real-world consequences, all within a few days.

Second, it “looks like a toy”, which in the words of Chris Dixon is what “the next big thing” tends to look like in the beginning. In other words, gathering a bunch of people to buy an old piece of paper seems kind of silly, but might hint at how we’ll make much more serious collective decisions in the future. DAOs might become a standard method for making all kinds of collective decisions one day – many of which will be radically more important than who owns an old document.

To make my third point, let me quote Dixon once again; “What the smartest people do on the weekend is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years”. This weekend, a bunch of very smart people decided to create a DAO to buy the constitution. I don’t believe everyone else will run around buying constitutions in ten years time, but I assume many of us will partake in some form of a DAO by 2031. DAOs are essentially internet-native democracies, so get ready to vote, contribute and govern when you join one that represents a cause you care about one day.

To wrap this up, let me emphasize a crucial point: buying the constitution is mostly a gimmick, of course. It’s not a project that will create much value in the world, nor improve people’s lives per se. But it is a powerful signal that crypto, and digital-first, self-organised communities will be forces to be reckoned with in political processes going forwards. Yes, this time it was just about a political artefact, a piece of paper if you will. But who knows what it will be next time? If a bunch of strangers can join forces to buy a constitution for $20 million in a few days time, what else might they/we/you be able to accomplish in the years ahead?

I’ll leave you with that as food for thought for tonight. And here is the link to Packy’s post again, if you missed it.

I wish you a splendid evening,

-Jacob

(Wait, did this just become a semi-legit post in and of itself? 👀)