Growth, either in a garden or an economy, is a welcome sign of health. And since the world economy is ruled by the principles of capitalism, such growth must be sustainable. In the global West, gardens typically take two distinct patterns: English or French. The latter is neatly manicured, almost homogeneous in nature, but exquisite in detail and precision. The former, however, is a melee of variety, creating a diverse scene in which no one species is dominant. Will the newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi simultaneously transform India’s English-garden-society and socialist leaning economy into the structured French-garden-society, coupled with a neoliberal penchant without uprooting civil society?

Like English gardens—callously ironic, perhaps—heterogeneity rules in India. The subcontinent has a storied history of invasion. PM Modi, coupled with his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has a unique, subversive undertone of Hindu nationalism: Hindutva, which contradicts the reality of India’s historically variegated society. The BJP’s economic manifesto also rewards the interests of a select few, effectively disrupting any attempt at social or economic equity, and potentially disenfranchising millions of his supporters through austere policies. What is the social cost of economic efficiency in the world’s second most populous nation? Moreover, in the garden of the world economy, can Modi and the BJP prune nationalistic sentiments in order to sustain economic growth in the short and medium run?

These two sentiments hardly seem to correspond. In fact, heterogeneity and nationalism offer a potential catalyst for substantial economic disruption in the subcontinent if the ideology of Hindutva grows weight-bearing roots. The rise of BJP and Modi are significant for the Hindu national movement. Nationalism is not immanently evil like fascism, but the border that separates the two is easily crossed and can allow for incidents like the Gujarat riots in 2002 to be neatly trimmed from history’s branches. Modi’s mandate, the sweeping nationalistic pride, and the dangers that attach themselves to such a movement are fertilizing a different spring in the subcontinent.

If the nationalistic sentiments are allowed to bloom in India, then how will the roaring tiger from the north react? Nationalism is tricky business for economics. On one hand, a rally behind a common economic goal that sustains growth could happen; while on the other hand, there is economic condemnation, usually coupled with sanctions. Both options depend on the economic gravity in each country. China currently holds the economic and foreign policy weight, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. The numbers of the Indian economy grow year to year, largely due to the decrease in poverty seen during Mr. Singh’s tenure—although most attribute poverty initiatives to Sonia Gandhi. The poverty levels are still high, ensuring future growth in the subcontinent, but only if the poorest are given the light to grow. In this manner, nationalism, in conjunction with neoliberalism, are annuals in the economic garden, where perennials are needed within the capitalist model.

Herein lies China’s internal predicament: if China invests in India, they are cleaning the path for sustained economic growth in India and prudently fertilizing a trade partner closer to home; but, if China denies any substantial foreign investment to India, growth across all sectors becomes unlikely during Modi’s reign, making for a weaker and potentially more desperate neighbor to the south. China’s investment could indirectly substantiate the nationalistic wave in India by giving Modi regional credence. The northern neighbor’s decision to invest can solidify Modi’s persona and provide an undesirable platform to the Hindutva movement.

Only if China and India allow the entire garden to grow, and not just one section, will they both sustain economic growth in the long run. China’s authoritarian regime is able to redirect sunlight to the sections that don’t receive enough; whereas India’s newly minted neoliberal economy is hoping one section will fertilize the rest, never mind the sunlight. Upon this assessment, medium-run growth looks shaky at best for India, while long-run growth is wilting.

Furthermore, if Hindu nationalism does take root in India, their economy will be competing with the sentiments of the country for the sparse sunlight coming through the canopy. India does not have the economic gravity to ensure sustained growth when policies are combined with Hindutva, directly or not. Foreign companies will surely redirect their investment to other periphery of the global economy, somewhere less tumultuous. Employment for non-Hindus will become less certain, potentially creating yet another diaspora in the subcontinent.

The transformation of India’s heterogeneous garden cannot be done with mere trims and snips; everything will need to be uprooted for Modi’s economic and social initiatives to grow unimpeded. India’s desired economic transformation is commendable, but Modi must chose between economic interests and promoting a non-secular state, for both will not grow together.

This article was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier's November/December 2014 print edition.

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.