Ethereum Governance Is Failing According to a Core Developer

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According to Ethereum (ETH) developer Lane Rettig, the problems Ethereum faces today are non-technical. Developers on the project are frantically trying to keep up with coding all the while avoiding governance issues. The future will require clear-cut decisions and not just code.

Ethereum governance is failing — or so says one main developer in the Ethereum space.

Lane Rettig posted a string of tweets yesterday outlining how the core developers have effectively made all aspects of Ethereum into a question of code. The reality is, however, that the future of Ethereum depends on much more than just correcting issues of scaling and adding to the code repository.

As Rettig explains:

In fear of taking sides, core Ethereum developers have become extremely cautious and have been ignoring the ‘non-technical’ concerns which are now growing in importance. After all, if Ethereum is to be used on a mass scale, it will require expertise in many more fields than just programming. It will form an entirely new sector of the economy, and the implications of this on economy, law, politics and the many facets of society at large cannot be overstated.

In short, developers cannot continue working on Ethereum like technocrats, as if ‘code is king.’ If they are truly serious about the long-term promises Ethereum brings, they must reckon with more than just code.

Possible Remedies to the ‘Governance Problem’

Decentralized governance cannot work without an actual base of everyday users. This is precisely what makes Ethereum’s current governance model so difficult to manage; you cannot have decentralized governance without an actual social base from which it derives its legitimacy.

In response to these challenges, there are a few options. Some of these Rettig spells out for us:

  1. On the one hand, Ethereum could just give up governance entirely and be like Bitcoin (BTC). This would make progress slow and likely put Ethereum at a significant disadvantage.
  2. Become a plutocracy instead of a technocracy, where the largest ether holders have the most say.
  3. Double-down on Ethereum’s structurelessness as if it is a good thing.
  4. Admit that decentralized governance will not work and move on to other projects.
  5. Admit decentralized governance does not work just yet, and fall back on centralized structures until the base of Ethereum’s users grows.

Of course, the options Rettig spells out are not all that enticing, with the fifth option being the most viable.

Ethereum is much more than a question of code for now. If the Ethereum project is successful, it could change the entire fundamental basis of how businesses are conducted and interact online.

This is why, for the time being, perhaps decentralized governance should be put on the back burner, at least until these fundamentals and their implications are brought up to speed. Decentralized governance could become a reality over time as more and more users join.

Is Ethereum’s decentralized governance model still feasible or is it nonsensical given current developments? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! 


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Raised in the U.S, Lucian graduated with a BA in economic history. An accomplished freelance journalist, he specializes in writing about the cryptocurrency space and the digital '4th industrial revolution' we find ourselves in.

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