Last month I submitted a proposal for my Publicoin! idea which I referenced in a previous post. Emergent Ventures is a grant-awarding initiative run by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. My Proposal submission is as follows:
Imagine if you will, a digital city. Not a city like in TRON, but rather a real city, like St. Paul, which has been “smartified” and interconnected like never before. Here you can rent a bicycle wirelessly, or a scooter if that’s your thing. You can pay for parking with your phone by taking a picture. Do you have a fallen tree or a broken sidewalk? Enter its location mobily and watch as city services arrive to repair the damage. Need to renew your driver’s license? Make an appointment and pay for it using your phone.
These services, and many more, are happening slowly in the public sphere. Cities are beginning to connect services with citizens in new and innovative ways, and indeed some of these ideas are already in effect. What is missing from this connection is a centralized network to unite everything. PubliCoin is the answer to that. This unique cryptocurrency and its corresponding network has the potential to revolutionize the public square.
PubliCoin will function as a block-chain driven ledger of transactions. A decentralized network consisting of nodes will verify each transaction, and will earn fractions of the digital currency. Its functionality will be no different from other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum.
As a Unit of Value for Exchange
Once held, PubliCoin will become the new currency for the public sphere. Whereas now one can purchase public goods or services with dollars or credit, in the future PubliCoin will offer citizens an alternative. Using the city’s digital “sphere”, citizens can purchase goods or services digitally from their phone. Conceptually, the following services could be available for purchase or discount with PubliCoin:
Bus or train tickets
Citizens can earn these coins by performing services that either benefit the city or other citizens. Many local level projects require volunteers, but have difficulty attracting enough people. PubliCoin is a good solution for this problem in that it costs the city little to no hard money to produce PubliCoin. The city receives value from the “volunteers” through their work and the “volunteers” receive value through earning PubliCoin which they can then spend on public goods and services. For example, a city wants to initiate an after school mentorship program for at-risk youth. The city can attract more qualified talent by offering PubliCoin versus a pure volunteer talent pool.
Perhaps there is a service that the city normally contracts out to a third party to perform, such as a “no smoking” campaign targeted at teenagers. Here again, citizens who participate in public projects can be rewarded for their work with PubliCoin, saving the city hard currency while retaining or even expanding services.
Does your city have a particularly low turnout rate for local elections? Perhaps an incentive like providing PubliCoin to voters would encourage the city’s residents to improve the turnout rate. The use of PubliCoin can provide local governments with an additional lever of public policy to encourage positive citizen action.
The City Network
A centralized network with public ledger will have to be developed in order to manage PubliCoin. Fortunately the city can offset some of the costs by paying developers in-, that’s right, PubliCoin!. This network would provide a city’s citizens with a catalogue of places to earn and spend coins, including current rates for each activity. A full study would be required to determine the correct exchange rate for city and citizen services provided. Like with other cryptocurrencies, the coins become more difficult to mine over the long term, and so an exchange rate for services, both bought and sold, would have to be pegged to both the value of the services over time as well as the difficulty in mining coins.
Conceptually, the use of PubliCoin is intended as a nexus between citizens and their governments, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun! To raise the public profile of the currency, other tangibles should be added to its use-list. The hope here is that citizens will funnel their hard earned coins into things that cost nothing for the city to produce:
- Why don’t you name this tree after yourself; or this stretch of sidewalk?
- For one million coins you can purchase a “day” for yourself, where the city names a day after you.
The potential uses of the coins are endless, and it is intended that the city remain revenue neutral.
There isn’t the space here to delve into the financial machinations of this system, but I can say with some confidence that the “back of the envelope” calculations I’ve made look promising. The costs associated with initiating and operating the PubliCoin system have the potential to be revenue neutral, or even save cities money in the long term. The real value is bringing citizens closer to their government, and closer to each other. That is what I intend to accomplish. The proposal I’ve laid out here is my vision and my passion. The extensive fiscal and economic concerns can and will follow should I be given an opportunity to present them to you.
Here is why I need the support of the Mercatus Center. I need to hire a programmer familiar with developing block-chain to initiate the cryptocurrency. This person will assist me in cost analysis for start-up and ongoing operating costs. Secondly, after I have drafted the white paper, I will need to possibly hire consultants such as a CPA if I cannot get the city to lend services for free. For the “heavy-lifting” I feel confident that with my professional and academic background I can draft the financial, economic, and public policy considerations for the project.