Gödel’s Loophole: Reply to Das Gupta

Anuj Das Gupta, the Chief Research Officer of Stratumn SAS in Paris, France, cites “Gödel’s Loophole” in his excellent essay “Looking for the Soul in Satoshi’s Work” (Das Gupta, 2019), which provides a general overview of blockchain technology. Toward the end of his essay, especially parts 7 and 8, he observes that blockchain transactions, once executed, cannot be reversed or altered; in other words, the soul of blockchains is supposed to be immutable. To illustrate his point, he draws an analogy between blockchain protocols and unamendable constitutional provisions like the “Eternal Clauses” in Bangladesh’s 1972 Constitution:

You can see a parallel to this [i.e. the immutability of blockchains] in legal systems, where some constitutions, such as the Bangladeshi one, have Eternal Clauses, like the clause that specifies how to make amendments cannot be amended itself.”

It is here — specifically, after the phrase “Eternal Clauses” — that my Gödel paper is cited (footnote 14). Moreover, not only does Das Gupta cite my paper; he also restates my Gödelian self-amendment argument in detail, i.e. how the provision authorizing amendments to a constitution can itself be amended. Despite this, Das Gupta draws the wrong lesson from my Gödel paper. He writes (part 7.3, link in the original): “The Eternal Clauses prevent the ultimate demise of the constitutional system from a slippery slope of amendments amending itself to a state of irrecoverable chaos…. [T]hese special clauses act as Schelling fences, which is a kind of a hard line (‘no more amendments beyond this point’) to stop slippage along the proverbial slope.” In reality, however, for the reasons I give in my paper — and which are restated in footnote 14 of Das Gupta’s essay no less — no constitutional provision is unamendable, immutable, or eternal. That is Gödel’s Loophole!

As an aside, Lima Aktar, a graduate student at Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh, further explores the paradox of unamendability in her excellent essay ‘Article 7B and the Paradox of Eternalising the Constitution of Bangladesh,’ IACL-AIDC Blog (11 May 2021).

Bangladesh Flag And Name Poster by Frederick Holiday

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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