Ben Bartlett

@benbartlett

The Smart Path: Solving for Zero Assets with Blockchain Technology

In the United States, income and wealth inequality are the highest they have been since the Great Depression. In fact, the median wealth for the majority of US households is projected to hit zero during the next generation. We now have more inequality than any other affluent democracy in the developed world.

Such grotesque levels of inequality are a recipe for instability and servitude. What can we do to fix this problem? How can we ensure that a majority of Americans do not lack physical and liquid assets?

To solve the issue of zero assets, I propose the Smart Path. The Smart Path leads away from poverty by unlocking new markets and expanding prosperity through blockchain technology.

Blockchain is a decentralized ledger of transactions that allows for greater security, transparency, and provides participants direct access to one another. Companies and public sector agencies around the globe are exploring blockchain to improve service delivery. This technology also holds vast potential to alleviate the looming zero asset problem.

Using blockchain technology, the Smart Path enables us to (1) revolutionize public finance, (2) grow sustainable markets, and establish (3) Data Autonomy to fund UBI.

Blockchain Based Microbonds and TDO’s : Revolutionizing Public Finance

Our $3.7 trillion municipal bond market lacks transparency, involves a slew of fee-collecting middlemen, is controlled by Wall Street, and excludes small investors.

Currently, governmental entities sell their bonds to banks who then resell the bonds to numerous intermediaries before reaching an investor. Each intermediary charges fees and mark ups. The UC Berkeley Haas Institute estimates that bond issuers lose approximately $4 billion annually as a result of this process. Furthermore, the costs of issuing and administering bonds make it impossible for small investors and regular people to purchase them. As a result, the people are losing out on a major form of wealth building.

We can expand the funds available for public financing by disrupting this process through the issuance of bonds on the blockchain. These Tokenized Debt Offerings (TDO’s) would enable government entities, NGO’s, non-profit corporations, business improvement districts, chambers of commerce, property owners via PACE, corporations, and social organizations to issue Microbonds directly to investors through a digital process powered by blockchain technology.

Microbonds and TDO’s would allow us to increase transparency, disintermediate the bond issuance process, and lower the cost to the issuer. Low transaction and administration costs can lower the minimum investment denomination, allowing regular people to purchase bonds, which democratizes asset ownership and builds wealth.

When people purchase Microbonds and other forms of Tokenized Debt Offerings; the earned interest payments can help create smart local currencies that drive public benefit and community participation in local markets.

In sum, Microbonds target both sides of the zero wealth problem: first, it creates ownership of a financial asset backed by a physical asset; second, it allows for ordinary people to have fractional ownership of the same physical asset.

Programmable Markets: Growing Sustainable Markets via Smart Contracts and Programmable Currency

There are billions of dollars pledged for sustainable investing. Right now, the problem is that ensuring compliance with environmental and socially responsible protocols is next to impossible. One way to address this is through blockchain technology.

Blockchain-based smart contracts or programmable currency can be designed to ensure compliance with protocols. They can green the global supply chain by creating assured markets for sustainable goods and processes funded by pre-directed smart securities and other blockchain-enabled financial instruments. They can also unlock potential within emerging markets, and locally, communities can ensure that capital is never offshored.

Data Sovereignty: Democratizing Data Markets to Fund UBI

Who owns your data? Right now, big corporations do. Our data is transacted hundreds of times a day without our participation.

We believe that individuals should own their data and we can achieve this by declaring personal data a sovereign property right. Following this line of thought, we can strategically decrease poverty by allowing individuals to benefit from the monetization of their personal data.

Blockchain can create an auditable record of data transaction and a subsequent programmable payment directly from advertisers and vendors. With data autonomy, people will be able to approach data markets collectively and negotiate pooled transactions for lower cost health insurance, utilities, and products. Data sovereignty could also be used to fund Universal Basic Income.

To conclude, the Smart Path consists of these three nodes of investment and policy change: (1) Microbonds and TDO’s, (2) Programmable Markets, and (3) Data Sovereignty.

We can design a better future than the one we are currently headed towards. Join the effort to create a new vision for a more inclusive and prosperous world.

All Doors Open!

Ben Bartlett is former Vice Mayor of Berkeley, California, author of the Berkeley Blockchain Initiative and attorney who helps entrepreneurs deliver next-generation products and services.

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