Voltaire On Democracy - Is Cardano pro Democracy?

I’ve started looking at some of Voltaire’s philosophy on government, and was surprised to find the following summary :

"Voltaire believed that the best form of government was a constitutional monarchy governed by an “enlightened despot.” The king should have limited power and should be advised by an oligarchy of philosophers, an intellectual aristocracy which would replace the rigid French aristocracy based solely on lineage.

Though he had great sympathy for the oppressed, Voltaire was in no sense a democrat. He thought the common people were too stupid, ill-educated, and selfish to make wise decisions about government and wanted them to be well-treated but kept as far away from political power as possible.

Much of Voltaire’s commentary on government is reactionary and deals with the specific abuses he encountered in eighteenth-century France. He is often regarded as a classical liberal, particularly in his defenses of free speech and denunciations of tyrannical government and in his opposition to extremism of all kinds."

So, I’m coming to the Cardano community, hoping for some insight into the choice of using Voltaire as the face and name of Cardano’s governance era. Do the IOHK developers (and/or Charles Hoskinson) and the Cardano Foundation agree with Voltaire’s assessment of democracy? Is Cardano going to be used to promote a more liquid democracy, or used to bring about an oligarchy of philosophers, and an intellectual aristocracy?

P.S. I’m no expert in Voltaires philosophy, but I agree with most of what I’ve read from his writings, except for his views on democracy. I always thought Cardano represented a huge step forward for increasing and improving democracy, and I feel like I’m missing something important here, and hoping someone will enlighten me. Why does Voltaire represent Cardano Governance?


You have to read on… Voltaire believed that the best form of government was a constitutional monarchy governed by an “enlightened despot.” The king should have limited power and should be advised by an oligarchy of philosophers, an intellectual aristocracy which would replace the rigid French aristocracy based solely on lineage.

As a passionate anti-clerical, Voltaire was a strong believer in the separation of church and state. He wrote about China and Japan as brilliant examples of countries where religion played no role in government and was among the first European thinkers to suggest that Europe should learn political science from Asia. Voltaire also admired many aspects of North American culture and lived just long enough to see the foundation of the United States, but he abhorred the institution of slavery. Several of the Founding Fathers were greatly influenced by his views, particularly Thomas Jefferson."


" Voltaire believed government must protect people’s basic rights. This included freedom of speech and religion. He believed that no religion or religious groups should be favored by the government ."

And he was a satirist… The phrase “enlightened despot” was sarcasm…


Speaking personally (not as a representative of IOHK):

What is actually important is to focus on individual rights, equality, mutual consent and personal responsibility. (By “rights” I mean something fairly specific: these are not the freedoms we can claim, but rather the limits we place upon others: i.e., you are “free to live your life” until “it impacts someone else negatively”)

The natural form of government for that kind of society is a “democracy”, but there are a lot of other paths to “democracy” too; not all of them are good. Just voting by itself doesn’t make something right or just; it can just as easily just be another way for one majority to impose their will on a smaller group.


There is no perfect system but i do agree in the adage that you can do anything as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else doing the same… essentially the libertarian thought.

My personal thinking is also that you cannot reasonably expect to have people vote on important technical issues. Do we want to vote on anti-covid measures? It’s probably better to have scientists analyse and remediate the situation for us.

What we do want is representation, but whoever represents us does not necessarily need absolute political power. Maybe our representatives create the measures by which decision makers are judged for extension of their term?

Today, democracy is a far cry of what it should be. All we have are popularity contests that provide us with old white men that lack long-term vision.

There are many ways voting can be set up, and while you may not want to have everyone voting on “important technical issues” we could structure things in a way so that anyone can vote on what important technical issues receive funding and development, and who we delegate our votes to, so they can represent us on issues we are less informed about. I would like to think cardano can evolve into a more democratic system where we have the option to either 1; vote on any issue directly that we care about, 2 delegate our vote(s) to one or multiple other representatives, who could be anyone from the community, 3 not vote on issues we do not have sufficient knowledge about. I think if you give people the option to vote on any of 1000+ different issues, they will probably only vote on a few that they know and care about and skip the rest. I guess I’m curious to gain a better understanding of the Cardano Foundations approach to democracy; are they trying to have experts control the decision making, which could be more efficient and more likely to have a quick positive result, or is the priority to include the community with more voting/responsibility leading to a more decentralized control system.

I think the links below have pretty much answered my question on what IOG is planning/building… but I’m still a little confused on how this is related to Voltaire’s philosophy. I guess I just need to read more Voltaire…

(I’m also making the assumption that the entire blockchain industry, but especially cardano, is not just about crypto, but is essentially a test network for a future global system of economic/political governance, even if we are still 50+ years away from that eventual outcome) Modern technology infused with ancient philosophy gives me great hope for our future.

If you’re not informed enough to cast a vote on an issue, how can you be informed enough to delegate your vote in a way that represents your interests? Won’t that quickly become a popularity contest? I absolutely want everyone to be represented, but not by popular vote. Let us reason about it unless the quality of a vote can be guaranteed. For some issues it then would be more important to signal disagreement, rather than agreement. At that stage, a vote would block an implementation and restart a reasoning process. Maybe there is a requirement of having at least 5% disagreement to block something, or maybe it should be higher. Maybe disagreement needs to abide by a certain format to provide a start for remediating the objection. Governance through a pure mathematical process will be hard to do efficiently, so we shouldn’t forget that discussion, disagreement all take a part in this and that there may not be a reason to turn a vote into something purely mathematical. How could you, in such a case, preserve the very research focussed approach so far?

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Please don’t censor stuff. let people make up their on mind… really, blockchain is all about being open with no censorship… There is no who gets to tell anyone if something is “sufficiently dangerous”… they can figure it out for themselves.
And did you even look at the article that was referenced? It was basically talking about how ridiculous virus deniers are…

Could we agree as a community not to censor stuff… please!

The original is gone, my response is hidden, you can discuss censorship elsewhere.

I don’t care if it gone, I care about this comment, " which I believe is sufficiently dangerous to justify the admittedly extreme step of censorship".

I could care less about what was censored, I care that people are doing it.

Whatever you think about my hidden comment, or about censorship, is entirely off-topic in this thread. You are perfectly free to start another. Please help to keep the forum organized and useful.

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As an example, I think if someone feels they are not an expert on a technical issue, they would likely be able identify someone that they believe has more knowledge of the subject. This allows the voter/user the freedom to exercise their right to vote, or to basically give their vote to someone who they believe would make the right decisions on their behalf. (if a month ago there was a community vote to decide on the K perimeter, I could pick my favourite number without really understanding the consequences of my decision, or I could delegate my vote to one of the experts at IOHK or the Cardano Foundation, or a stake pool operator, etc… to make that technical decision for me. A popularity contest is not always a negative thing… that’s basically how our election system works today. What we would like to see is that the most “popular” (respected by the community) experts would gain slightly more stake/voting delegation and decision making power.

Anthony, I’m with you against censorship, probably no need for that here. But I agree with Rob that your post was pretty far off topic. How does Covid 19 science relate to why cardano uses Voltaire’s name/image/philosophy to represent the voting/governance era? Rob’s just trying to keep things organized, it’s not a personal attack


In this interview Charles mentions how Voltaire is the ultimate critic of government, so I’m realizing he’s used more in jest, to highlight the problems with our existing governance systems, as opposed to using voltaire’s philosophy of government directly within Cardano.

There was a post on this discussion that is now gone… that is where the quote in my answer came from. I didn’t just pull it out of thin air.
I agree it’s not for this discussion. But I’m so sick off all the censorship that is going on in big tech that when I see it, i get all riled up… but you all are correct, it is not for this conversation.


Yes, that’s how politics currently work and that’s a problem. Imho, we should move away from popular opinions and move towards reasoned motivations for go or no-go decisions. One thing we could do is to work with objections where each validated objection blocks a decision. The tricky thing is to figure out what is a valid objection and what is not. But think about the current governance though. Cardano implements a set of peer reviewed technological solutions where a reasoned objection from a scientific community blocks an implementation. So we already have a methodology that works well, don’t we? The question is how to scale this to a larger community and make it independent from the founding teams. I’ve already read about people fearing that a rigorous research backed approach should not get lost in popularity marketing.

A technical argument should be validated based on merit to our purpose. Maybe we should first vote for popularity to see which ideas are wanted and then validate an approach by only allowing peer-reviewed implementation plans. To let this work solely on popularity is a recipe for disaster as a decent marketing budget is all that is needed to manipulate such an environment. “Respect by the community” is pretty interpretable the way I see it.

It used to be popular thinking that women and blacks shouldn’t vote or that gays shouldn’t marry. How much better would our world look if we had peer-reviewed or researched our assumptions back then?

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Voltaire’s ideologies played a sizeable part in both the French Revolution and the US War of Independence, particularly not just for his notions on democracy but on personal liberties. Cardano’s governance model is ambitious and commendable, but I think we all hope that the whales don’t wield too much influence.

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I’m assuming/hoping/trusting that the peer reviewed research approach at IOG will come up with some of the best ways to implement an acceptable, trusted, efficient, and fair voting system. First it will be tested and refined for the purpose of technical development of Cardano, but I’m sure once it has proven it’s worth, it can quickly scale into other areas (governments, community organizations, global institutions, etc.) The way I see it, we all support decentralization because we fear one group wielding too much power or influence… either the uneducated masses making the wrong decisions, (democracy) the wealthy whales gaming the system for their benefit, (plutocracy) or even the accredited intellectuals claiming they know best because they are smarter than everyone else. (Technocracy) Personally I’m hoping Cardano can shift society away from plutocracy, while improving on democracy by allowing the election of social libertarian technocrats and a more direct, liquid democracy. Or, if that doesn’t work, Charles and tar monster #3 fight to the death with the winner becoming the autocratic ruler of the world.