In today’s Finshots, we explain why a group of people are trying to buy a copy of the US Constitution.


The Story

In 1787, close to 55 people came together to draft the US Constitution over a period of 4 months.

In 2021, an internet collective, ConstitutionDAO has raised over $27 million in less than a week to buy a copy of this Constitution at an auction.

If this sounds like something out of a Hollywood movie, let us assure you, it’s not. It’s real and it’s happening as we speak.

Okay, so here’s the story. When the Constitution was originally drafted, they made about 500 copies. The idea was to have redundancies in place. What if some got misplaced? What if a few copies were lost to a fire, or submerged in a flood perhaps? It made sense to have a few hundred copies just in case. However, nearly 200 odd years later, there are about 13 surviving copies left. And only two (some say one) that are in private hands. Needless to say, these copies are precious.

And guess what?

One of them is going to change hands very soon. On November 18th, a copy of the United States Constitution will go up for sale at the world-famous auction house Sotheby’s. The seller? The family of late New York real estate developer Howard Goldman who last bought it for $165,000 in 1988. The family has stated that they won’t keep the money for themselves. Instead, they’ve vowed to use it to help the public better appreciate democracy — a rather noble gesture.

With that introduction out of the way let’s begin dissecting the story and the main protagonist — ConstitutionDAO. DAO aka the Decentralised Autonomous Organization is an internet collective. As the name suggests, it’s a group of people who’ve congregated on the internet to achieve a certain objective — in this case, buying the constitution. They conduct their business on a blockchain i.e. a decentralized ledger and each participant will have a say on how said business is conducted. Now, technically you could set up a DAO for a whole variety of use cases. But considering the plan here is to buy a copy of the constitution. Let’s just stick to that, shall we?

So, a week ago, a bunch of (young) folks started messaging each other talking about how cool it would be to buy a copy of the Constitution when it came up for auction. They were looking to put an original copy of the Constitution in the hands of the people. And it just kind of snowballed from there.

Packy McCormick who writes the Not Boring newsletter and someone who’s also been involved in ConstitutionDAO from Day 1 laid out how quickly different pieces of the puzzle shaped up in just a few days.

  1. Syndicate DAO began working on legal formation. Because even DAOs can’t escape some legal mumbo jumbo.
  2. Juicebox Protocol, began working on the contract to facilitate ownership.
  3. FTX, an exchange, was expected to facilitate the final purchase by converting all the money raised via cryptocurrency ether into millions of dollars.

So to summarize, a bunch of people came together on the internet, raised a ton of money, began transacting on a blockchain and are now attempting to buy a copy of the constitution.

And why create a DAO to do all this? Well, this is what their website says:

Decentralization and cryptocurrency (web3) have created structures that allow people to self-govern with unparalleled levels of autonomy and freedom. It’s fitting that we use this technology to honor and protect the greatest historical tool for human governance: the U.S. Constitution.

Decentralisation = freedom = democracy = Constitution. Get it?

And bear in mind, the donors won’t own the constitution in any way. Instead, they’ll be assigned a token — $PEOPLE, that’ll give them the power to vote on certain matters. For instance, where do you house the copy of the constitution? These are questions that the community will try and answer.

And while not everybody is convinced that they may actually go on to win, it is still remarkable to think that a bunch of strangers on the internet can come together and conduct their business in such a transparent manner. If they win, this will truly be a massive statement for all the proponents of cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

Until then…

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