This Governance Will Self Destruct

// TL;DR: The Optimism Collective is a large-scale experiment in non-plutocratic governance and funding public goods for a more aligned internet. In this post, we explain our agile approach to governance—relentlessly iterating until we form a system which can stand the test of time.

Last month, we unveiled our vision for Optimism’s governance system.

For years leading up to this milestone, people asked us: “when token?”

But fewer asked: “why token?”

The answer to “why token” is simple, but powerful:

To distribute control of the network for the benefit of the protocol and its constituents. This is the mission of the Optimism Collective, in which the Token House plays one part.

As Ethereum’s path to global scale crystallizes, the Superchain’s constituents will also become global. This is a monumental opportunity to usher in a new era of the internet—one built for, and governed by, its citizens.

The Next Episode

But blockchain governance is still very much in its infancy. While many exciting experiments are underway, a long road lies ahead.

A governance system which promotes innovation, self-expression, and liberty—without getting in the way—will not be built in a day.

We’ve spent countless hours setting a north star for the Optimism Collective, but we’re well aware that we couldn’t possibly get it all right on the first try. A governance model which can stand the test of *decades—not years—*will take time to get right.

So: Optimism governance will self destruct. Repeatedly.

And with each new iteration, a more resilient, sustainable system will rise from the ashes.

A Living Constitution

Alongside last month’s announcement, we shared the Working Constitution of the Optimism Collective. We’d highly recommend you give it a read—a lot of this post will share commentary and motivation for it. The constitution enshrines some key provisions which will impact the Collective for years to come, notably:

  • Experimentation: the Collective will undertake a series of governance experiments, stewarded by the Optimism Foundation.

  • A mandate to develop the Citizens’ House: a co-equal member of the Collective, alongside the Token House, to balance short-term incentives with long-term vision.

  • An explicit self-destruct mechanism: in addition to frequently iterating governance, the constitution itself will remain in effect for no more than four years, until being replaced by a permanent “Bedrock Constitution.”

Initial Commit: OPerating Manual v0.1

Today, we are releasing the first operating manual for the Collective. In the spirit of those principles enshrined by the constitution, it is aptly named v0.1. Borrowing heavily from existing governance playbooks, it empowers the Token House to perform things like upgrades and treasury allocations.

But—this post is here to talk about the future.

The Token House exists to make explicit the plutocratic models we see today. These are important as a driving force for growth, but insufficient to provide the long-term balance a new internet deserves.

The Optimism Collective will be so much more than a governance token.

The Optimism Foundation

The Optimism Foundation will serve as a steward of the Collective in realizing this vision. It is a new, distinct entity in the Optimism Ecosystem with a mandate to help the Collective realize its vision, and the power to do so.

The Optimism Foundation exists to materialize a governance system built to truly last. Its key responsibilities include:

  • Managing experiments in Retroactive Public Goods Funding and identity-based NFTs as it builds the Citizens’ House.

  • Maintaining the OPerating Manual to ensure healthy and agile governance by making improvements to both Houses of the Collective.

  • Enacting on-chain transactions as directed by the Collective in its early days.

The first employees of the foundation are two of Optimism’s founders, Jing and Ben—formerly CEO and Chief Scientist of the PBC respectively. Joining them on the board are some new faces, whose backgrounds are like peanut butter to the Optimism jelly:

  • Brian Avello, former General Counsel to the Maker Foundation. Brian played a key role in realizing a return to a fully decentralized MakerDAO—one of the most advanced governance models out there.

  • Eva Beylin, Executive Director of The Graph Foundation. As a decentralized infrastructure protocol with a significant off-chain stack, The Graph’s governance operates with a very similar set of constraints to the Optimism protocol.

  • Abbey Titcomb, Council Member of the Radicle Foundation. Radicle’s mission to realize a self-sustaining, community-owned & operated open-source project falls perfectly in line with the goals of the Collective.

Also—the Optimism Foundation is officially hiring! If you want to work on the future of governance with us, please get in touch.

v0.2: The Citizens’ House

As the Token House launches alongside Airdrop #1, our focus will turn to the next piece of the governance puzzle: The Citizens’ House, the identity-first layer of the Collective.

This house, governed by holders of Citizenship NFTs, will require nimble experimentation as the Optimism Collective navigates a rapidly evolving space.

Creating a meaningful feedback loop of experimentation between the OP Mainnet network and its citizens presents an incredible opportunity to push forward identity-based governance, all grounded in real-world examples and evidence.

Together, we will forge a new path through the dark forest.

The primary responsibility of the Citizens’ House will be funding those public goods which have the most positive impact on the Optimism and Ethereum ecosystems. The first Citizens’ House experiment and its corresponding Citizenship NFT collection will be the next major milestone for the Collective.

Here’s to the future

The rise of Ethereum L2 in the coming years represents a monumental opportunity to usher in a new era of the human-centric internet and a chance for truly massive real-world impact.

What a time to be alive!

This chance belongs to all of us. As we build this governance system in the coming years, participating in the community, spreading good memes, and setting a cultural example for the Optimists of the future is more important than ever.

Let’s do this.

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