Decentralized governance reacts to overcentralization in much the same way an immune system reacts to a viral infection. Throughout history, history has been replete with the rise and inevitable fall of massive empires, each of which fall victim to complacency and corruption. The result often comes with increased war, poverty, corruption, and instability. Historically, decentralized governance has been an antidote that can repair and create new societal institutions dedicated to rule of law, financial freedom, and flourishing human creativity.
The world reached “peak” centralization with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent emergence of the United States as a so-called “hyperpower.” It seemed as though we had reached the end of history — and we couldn’t have been more wrong. New trends, such as blockchain technology, Special Economic Zones, and private cities have moved towards decentralization without the historically traditional component of societal instability and collapse.
Global momentum is on the side of decentralized governance. At the Startup Societies Network, our goal is to promote the growth of responsible decentralization — and to that end, to foster the spread of “Startup Societies.”
The Startup Societies Network believes that decentralization cannot occur responsibly without new experiments in governance that differ from pre-existing structures — moves that in effect challenge calcified systems and create alternatives to the status quo.
We call these experiments “startup societies.”
A startup society is any new community (physical or otherwise) that operates under a new, atypical governance model that attempts to address the challenges of modern society.
Startup societies fall into three main categories:
Based on the Honduran ZEDE law, Próspera is an entirely new city that has its own civil law and regulatory structure, independent of that of Honduras, though it remains bound by the Honduran constitution and its criminal law code. Inspired by successful special economic zones such as Shenzhen in China or Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Próspera intends to make it much easier for residents to interact with government services by better aligning local government incentives and residential needs.
Conceived and financed by the Walt Disney Company, Celebration is a master-planned community located near Walt Disney World. Though Disney divested control of the community, it still owns and operates many local services, including power utilities. Voting is restricted to landowning entities - with Disney remaining the largest such entity.
Songdo is among the largest private real estate developments in history, occupying 1500 acres of reclaimed land along the Incheon waterfront. Built from the ground-up with sustainability in mind, Songdo offers over 25km of bike paths, a central pneumatic waste disposal system that eliminates garbage pickup, and over 22 million sq-ft of LEED certified space.
The DIFC is self-governed financial and business district with its own legal system and business regulations aimed at attracting foriegn investment. Laws are issued in English, businesses can operate without a local partner, companies can take advantage of a 50-year guarantee of zero taxes on corporate income and profits.
Ethereum is the blockchain technology powering ether (ETH), the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, as well as thousands of decentralized application (dapps). Though it may be digital in nature, the Ethereum community has had huge impacts on the world at large.
Made up of three Special Economic Zones (SEZs), the Cayman Island Enterprise City aimed to attract tech and service-industries to setup a physical presence in the Cayman Islands with incentives such as a 100% exemption from income and sales tax, and renewable 5-year work/residency visas that can be obtained in as little as 5 working days. As of 2020, the economic impact is estimated at over $500 million, and more than 250 companies are currently headquartered there.
Today, things are possible that were fever dreams only two years prior. Our interest in startup societies began with the fervent belief that decentralization is needed in an increasingly centralized world. We discovered an entirely new way of examining history, and now, an emerging industry dedicated to building new, decentralized communities.
With this shift comes reinvigoration, a refocusing that’s been long overdue. We are the Startup Societies Network — the only think tank dedicated to studying and promoting decentralized governance. While there are numerous organizations studying blockchain technology, special jurisdictions, new communities and the like, there is no organization that works within these currents as though they are part of a larger river.