How Can Blockchain Help Diffuse Our Current Political Climate?

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Blockchain technology offers potential solutions to political challenges such as election integrity, combating misinformation, and promoting transparency in government contracting. Additionally, it can help battle corruption, improve land registry systems, and facilitate economic growth. While blockchain is not a panacea, it offers a foundation for more reliable and transparent governance systems that can be tracked and verified, contributing to a more informed and trustworthy political environment.

Political discourse has taken a turn for the worse in the United States over the past decade. As ideologies become more polarized and entrenched, suspicion is mounting across party lines, and opportunities for compromise have become scarcer.

At its heart, this atmosphere is fueled by two things:

  • Mistrust of others’ intents and motivations;
  • Distrust of the basic facts required to reach informed conclusions.

But might there be a technological solution to at least the second problem, which could then help to at least alleviate the second Could a technology like a blockchain, for example, enable a level of trust regarding political information just as it does with financial, legal, and other forms of data?

It turns out it can, according to some leading experts.

Voter Veracity

Ensuring Transparent and Secure Elections

One issue driving political conflict these days is the sanctity of elections. While charges of widespread voter fraud have been thoroughly debunked, a large segment of the electorate still believes it exists but has been covered up so deftly as to be undiscoverable. But as Investopedia’s Joe Leibkind pointed out in the last election cycle, blockchain can offer an immutable digital ledger that provides built-in transparency to what is essentially a series of transactions – from voter registration to vote tabulation and certification of the winner.

Leibkind argues that such a system would not only be easier and cheaper to manage, but it would also maintain voter confidentiality without eroding the integrity of either the voter registration rolls or the elections themselves, even if these activities are conducted online. And perhaps most importantly, it would reduce the current barriers to voting that drive down election turnout and typically produce more extremist elected leaders backed by party hard-liners.

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Combating Misinformation and Fake News

Equally disruptive to modern elections is the prevalence of misinformation and “fake news.” As social media becomes the predominant source of information across the electorate, the ease at which skewed interpretations of the facts, if not outright lies, can be disseminated has increased.

Blockchain has the ability to establish the provenance of information by establishing a transparent chain all the way back to its source, says media watchdog Fact Protocol. In this way, news and information can be cross-referenced and authenticated by multiple parties across the political spectrum.

This system can also be used to incentivize participants and outside observers to identify and flag where, when, and how falsifications and distortions were introduced in any given news item’s chain. By rewarding honest behavior and punishing dishonesty, blockchain-based information systems offer a self-functioning avenue for accurate information to rise to the top, even if it remains subject to varied analysis and interpretation.

Honest Government

Even beyond the realm of elections and public influence, blockchain can alleviate many intractable issues that impair good government. Graft and corruption, for one, can become much harder to conceal if there is an open digital ledger of transactions.

According to the World Economic Forum, blockchain can shed much-needed light on the four key steps of government contracting:

  • Planning;
  • Bidding;
  • Bid evaluation;
  • Implementation and monitoring.

In most cases, these steps are reviewable only by the government authority and the business directly involved in each bid, which produces an environment that is highly susceptible to corruption.

Blockchain can also open up the often-hidden realm of land registry and ownership of other valuable assets. The proper handling of this information is vital for things like taxation, access to credit, and income maintenance, which means it can be used to help or hurt, individuals based on the use of applicable laws and regulations. Transparency not only undermines the likelihood of wrongdoing, but it also streamlines transaction processes to help spur economic growth and greater distribution of wealth.

Peace and Economic Growth

But could it go even further than that? Could blockchain be the key to world peace itself? That might be an overstatement, but there are definitely ways in which it could help reduce the scope and severity of the global conflict.

For one thing, cryptocurrencies are already helping to aid the oppressed and hurt the oppressors, says the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In Ukraine, for example, crypto has provided much-needed succor for a population that has been stripped of wealth and has had to navigate a complex system of international laws and regulations to receive funding from the denominations of friendly countries. Private donations, in particular, can be transferred to recipients much easier using cryptocurrencies.

And while it may seem that Russia could use the same techniques to evade sanctions, current market structures and liquidity issues make it difficult to accomplish this at scale. For one thing, nearly all crypto transactions can be traced, making them the equivalent of “marked bills” in the digital sphere, and many of the leading exchanges, including Binance and Coinbase, participate in global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing protocols.

In general, open digital ledgers like blockchain make it more difficult to skirt the law, while legal transactions become easier and less subject to red tape. And so far, at least, the evidence suggests that cryptocurrency use in Russia reflects ordinary citizens trying to dump their rubles, not hide them.

The Bottom Line

Despite these advances in blockchain technology, the odds of a completely open, fair political environment are slim. There will always be those who cast doubt on blockchain’s transparency or claim the system has been rigged by one global cabal or another. But at least it provides the underpinnings of a system of reliably informed governance that can be presented as a trustworthy means of conducting the public’s business in ways that can be tracked and verified.

It might not be nirvana, but it’s far better than what we have now.

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Arthur Cole
Technology Writer

Arthur Cole is a freelance technology journalist who has been covering IT and enterprise developments for more than 20 years. He contributes to a wide variety of leading technology web sites, including IT Business Edge, Enterprise Networking Planet, Point B and Beyond and multiple vendor services.