I’d like to respond to this first by explicitly framing some of the different things we could be pointing to when we talk about “capitalism”.
Capitalism as an Ideology
Precepts: Efficiency and productivity are the highest values. Things are valuable insofar as they make money. The natural world consists of resources waiting to be extracted. Mental health matters, because Healthy People Are More Productive.
My Take: Thanks, we hate it. I feel safe saying these values are not deeply embedded in SC.
Capitalism’s moral history
History: Early capitalism involved dispossessing people from the commons, colonizing non-Europe and subjugating / genociding native populations. To this day, modern “globalism” is built on top of a legacy of incredibly unfair debt and economic relationships, on oppression of labor, etc.
My take: This is a really awful and cruel history.
Capitalism as an economic system
Precepts: Economic activity is coordinated through markets for labor, goods, and capital. Capital is deployed towards enterprises that promise a high return, and those enterprises are held accountable by their actual success in the market. People are directly incentivized and rewarded based on (whether they have a chokehold on) the production of economic value.
My take: This is the most effective and vigorous economic system that has ever been developed. Incredibly well-resourced and persuasive attempts to unseat capitalism failed, in large part, because their economic systems were inferior. (cf. the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fact that the rise of China has corresponded to their becoming hypercapitalist rather than communist, etc.) If we want to replace or dismantle capitalism, we need a system that is comparably effective at organizing resources and labor, otherwise it will get outcompeted by capitalism.
When I’m talking about capitalisms strengths or benefits, this is the part I most want to draw attention to. Capitalism is an unprecedentedly effective system for coordinating the actions of billions of people. If we want to have a serious shot at dismantling or displacing capitalism, we need a system which is more effective at organizing long-term, coordinated action, and at accumulating and deploying resources. If this new system isn’t more effective, then when capitalism actually gets threatened by the change, it will use its superior resources and coordination abilities to crush whatever the new thing is.
On to the SourceCred specific angles.
Will SourceCred be co-opted by capital?
One of the concerns here is the idea that capitalists, by using boosting, will get control of SourceCred, thus alienating us all from our labor. I think this is unlikely. We’re operating from a position of strength: we have no investors (just sponsors), have not promised returns or control to any outside parties, have rapidly growing revenues, and relatively low cash burn. So long as we can grow revenues faster than expenses, we’ll be progressively getting less and less dependent on capital. So long as we are not dependent on external capital, we’ll retain autonomy.
If we don’t really need capital right now, one might say, why do we need to implement Boosting? There are a few reasons for that actually, boosting’s role in SourceCred is more than just onboarding capital. It provides a permissionless way for anyone in the community to put skin-in-the-game to signify what is important, it closes the loop between Cred and Grain (i.e. distributions go from Cred to Grain, and boosting goes from Grain to Cred). But it also allows raising capital yes. Why is it important to build a mechanism for raising capital if we don’t really need it?
Designing for our Co-Communities
We’re building SourceCred for our co-communities. Communities need access to capital in order to thrive, so they will need to have some mechanism for raising it. If we do nothing, they’ll need to raise capital on capital’s terms, which basically means everyone in the community (except (maybe) the founders) are going to get fucked. Boosting is our opportunity to design a responsible way to onboard capital: one that entices capital with just enough returns, but does not give it political dominance or organizational control.
The Need to Entice Capital
There’s a massive amount of underdeployed capital in the world (1). It is impatient and underutilized and represents a massive source of potential energy to drive societal change. If we can entice that capital to participate in a more wholesome and value aligned system, then we can tap this energy. It also allows SourceCred to thrive “under the radar” within capitalism for much longer. We want SourceCred to look like an opportunity rather than a threat, for as long as possible.
I recognize this risks “using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house” (2). I think a question to ask is: are we trying to bring SourceCred into the paradigm of capitalism (i.e. designing SourceCred to satisfy investors), or are we trying to entice capital into the paradigm of SourceCred (i.e. designing a mechanism that first and foremost suits the needs of our communities, and eventually allowing investors to participate).
A lot of my earlier motivation for prioritizing boosting was actually a case of the former, i.e. I was focused on designing boosting in a way that could legibly guarantee sufficient returns for investors. This was because I was prioritizing raising investment capital, which I saw as a way of safeguarding our independence (having a flush bank account affords certain freedom of action). However, I’ve 100% changed course on this; I don’t think we have any urgency to raise investment capital, and so designing with investors returns’ top of mind would be a mistake.
Let’s design boosting with this in mind. Let’s design it first and foremost for ourselves and our co-communities: as a way for people to express what they value within the project, and flow resources accordingly. We can start it off entirely altruistically, the only effect of boosting is to burn Grain and mint Cred, and the only reward is the satisfaction of seeing things get valued more fairly. We can experiment and iterate from there.