Formalizing Party Lines: How to Resolve the Cosmos Filibuster

Chjango Unchained ⛓️
6 min readNov 9, 2023

(Any views expressed in the below are the personal views of the author and should not form the basis for making investment decisions, nor be construed as a recommendation or advice to engage in investment transactions.)

The OG Agora

The last Cosmos season was driven, in part, by Terra’s (initially) spectacular success. The first time that the LUNA and UST market capitalizations in aggregate broke above the CMC Top 5 marked the moment that the free market would validate the appchain thesis — or temporarily, at least. From then until now, the narrative would oscillate from L2s to appchains then back to L2s again in under 2 years. In an emerging market like crypto, the pendulum will swing back and forth with every new cycle until eventually, the market converges on a winning model. The jury’s still out.

When a token’s price wicks up by a few hundred basis points, new bagholders join the party — attracted by the booze and the girls looking for their nouveau riche Misters — and out of that process, some converts will stay and either become its new missionaries or mercenaries, the most prolific of which, at times, turn to the temptation of grifting. EV grows higher and higher as the more cultish of a following the latter group can galvanize around themselves. The amalgamation of this process results in a melting pot of characters, eventually culminating into clashes, sometimes into all out war, as disagreements over technical bikesheds boil over and reach a tipping point. This process is natural. Anyone who claims that Cosmos uniquely has higher DPS (drama/s) than any other ecosystem clearly has not lived through enough market cycles.

What is, however, distinctive about how we resolve conflicts in Cosmos is in the built-in governance system that came with the tech stack on day 1. In Bitcoin, because there was no predefined judicial system for the whole Bitcoin community to weigh in from, factions would split off into either r/bitcoin or r/btc, with r/bitcoin, at the behest of Bitcoin Core, pushing User-Activated Soft-forks (UASF) to circumvent the default miner-activated forks. If all that sounds like nonsense to you, then you would be right. Whereas the early bitcoin community was compelled to retroactively introduce ways to shoehorn in governance mechanisms to ultimately not find a resolution until after 5 full years of disagreement over a 1 MB block size change, in Cosmos, we find definitive resolutions within 2 weeks over comparably controversial changes. I went through the harrowing uphill battle of attempting to propose changes in Handshake within a similarly Bitcoin-like governance structure — or lack thereof — and it reminded me of how good we have it in Cosmos as far as having a functional governance system.

The Cosmos stack, therefore, enables the most effective and decentralized onchain judicial system ever designed for stake-weighted DAO governance, with Cosmos Hub as the Supreme Court of the Atom Economic Zone (AEZ).

Formalizing a Two-Party System

One could say that the unending disagreements throughout Cosmos, perceived as unproductive drama for drama’s sake by the outsider, is a perpetual filibuster. The emergent political factions are unlikely to ever resolve due to a trauma that few truly understand lest you had gone through that canon event. Therefore, anyone hoping for a return to a uniparty ecosystem is subscribing to a hopium-laced “can’t we all just get along” mindset and needs a crash course about human nature. This is not to say that the collective cannot coordinate at scale and ultimately forge a unified path forward. Just because the industry status quo normalizes the example of a uniparty system, led by an alpha autist and lower forms of autists at its vanguard, doesn’t mean that there are no good alternatives for achieving social coordination ends.

What you are viscerally experiencing with Cosmos politics is the very incarnation of the Byzantine General’s problem writ large. You have 3 generals. One can be downright compromised, but as long as the other 2 are not, the collective can continue to make progress toward The Destination. You may incur liveness faults on the way but you’ll get there in spite of it.

If one party sings the siren’s call of coin price go UpOnly and is willing to get it done at any cost, and you find the cost tradeoff worth the potential upside, then the rational thing to do is to join that party. To catch you up to speed in case you didn’t follow Atom 1.0 vs Atom 2.0 — you would be an Atom 2.0 Party proponent.

If, on the other hand, you yearn for a more perfect world and got involved under the pretense that Cosmos could reasonably solve real world problems and are unwilling to compromise on long-term results in exchange for short-term solutions — and you’re still here — then the rational thing to do is to join the Atom 1.0 Party, or the Republic of the Cosmos Hub.

If neither of them represents your values, goals, or vision, then you’re free to start your own party. Else, if you align with the ideological bedrock of one of the primary parties but want to run with a new platform, then you’re free to run for a position to lead that party for 4 years to execute that vision.

I’ve written a draft proposal introducing the idea of using Hub governance to impose checks and balances over whichever entity is charged with funding public goods. I encourage you to give it a read.

Parties can fork off. Streamlined exit games are an inherent property of Cosmos by design. The point here is to wield the Cosmos Hub as the most distributed, thus fair, tool to operate an AEZ-wide voting system through which signal can be reasonably filtered.

“But muh Atom has no utility.”

If Cosmos Hub evolves into the Supreme Court of the AEZ, that makes Atom your right to vote. That is the ultimate utility.

Democracy is a beautiful thing. You’re engaging in a modern day social experiment the likes of which 17th century N. Americans underwent in the 13 Colonies.

We’re still early.

Governing without the Consent of the Governed

There’s a value extraction playbook that can be implemented by any wily insider in order to corner a L1 ecosystem, provided he/they has /have either direct control or control-by-proxy of the following power trifecta:

  1. the Foundation treasury,
  2. the authoritative socials/platforms for discourse, and
  3. the implied perception that your success in the ecosystem depends on being grandfathered in by splitting a significant slice of your equity/token allocation to the insider.

Even if success in reality is independent of 3, belief in that perception alone becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The downside of this model is that the rest of the community doesn’t share in the upside and there’s a clear incentive for the ones doing the cornering to actively and anti-competitively keep outsiders out, lest the latter pay their due social tax. The elephant in the room is that virtually everyone who has their toes in such an ecosystem knows this is happening but no one is willing to articulate it. Intuitively, you just get a “bad vibe” but the source remains obfuscated behind shadow games you aren’t privy to.

You’re Neo, and Morpheus just explained the Matrix. What do you do?

So Where Do You Go From Here?

If you’ve made it this far, you probably give enough of a f* about Cosmos such that you won’t be abandoning your post. You’re being called to wield the power of Cosmos onchain governance to enact the change you want to see in the world. What will you do about it?

Your Friendly Fellow Cosmonaut



Chjango Unchained ⛓️

Translates hard technical concepts into laymen’s terms. Covers DeFi & Web 3.0. Host of—validatoooor, investoooor & advisoooor for Cosmos ecosystem