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Questions Concerning Compensation

· 5 min read

As many of you may have noticed, the question of compensation has come up recently in the discord (linked here). It was an exceptionally valuable discussion that really highlighted how tricky the question concerning compensation is, both at JB specifically and in the web3 DAO space as a whole.

Central to this question and perhaps a source of equivocation is this: what precisely is Juicebox?

People looking at Juicebox like a startup, assuming it will exist like startups in the web2 world, may be quick to advocate for low salaries. After all, you don’t want high salaries if you are looking to pump up value in a company that you want to sell. This is the case with classic startups that are seeded with VC and created with the intent of profit as their final goal.

But you can also look at Juicebox like a grass-roots company– still profit driven, but not looking to sell. This would be in-line with your classic examples of companies that went big– think Bill Gates dropping out of college to create Microsoft, or Mark Zuckerberg doing the same with Facebook. In these cases, the goal was not to pump value and then sell; rather, the goal was to build first, and only after that to reap the rewards down the line. When Mark Zuckerberg made facebook, Myspace was the biggest name in town. In a few short years, it became an afterthought, and Mark Zuckerberg became the reptilian overlord we know him as today. He was in it for the long-haul, and it paid off for him.

And finally, you can look at Juicebox as a community. In this schema, it’s a collection of people all pulling in the same direction. The people who see Juicebox this way are quick to tell you that profit doesn’t really enter their minds too much, nor does a potential long-term promise of riches and private yachts. Rather, these people just like the people, the vibe, and the sense of being a part of something greater than themselves.

All this a long-winded way to point out that, if we ask the three people above about compensation, we’re likely to get three very different answers. Furthermore, we’re even more likely to equivocate the word at hand.

For instance: at Juicebox, are we compensating for services rendered, or are we acknowledging people’s efforts through compensation? Are we disbursing funds based on how profit-driven companies pay their employees, or are we giving pieces of the pie, ie JBX, to stake future promise and voice into our contributors? And in either case, how are we valuing contributors based on their roles differently?

And then there is a question of effort spent working– that is, is it even fair to tie compensation to how hard one works. Take for instance classic capitalist models. You may know someone who works hard and makes 50k per year. You may know someone who works hard and makes 200k a year. You may wonder if one person is truly working “harder” than the other. Maybe so, maybe not. But then take Elon Musk, who is worth 300 billion dollars, give or take. Is it fair to say that, in comparison to our 200k-per-year example, Elon is working 1.5 million times harder? Or compared to our 50K example, that he’s working six million times harder? We see from this reductio ad absurdem that equating value with how hard one works tends toward fallacy.

And so we arrive back and square one. What is compensation, truly? What is fair compensation? Is comparison the thief of joy, or should we look to others to determine our own worth? Marx said: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. An honor system in other words– I am a contributor doing X in a city where I need Y to live comfortably, and I’m asking for Y. Is this the solution– a commune where wealth is shared according to what people self-report they need? It doesn’t take a much to point out the room for abuse there.

Perhaps this is the central point: complicated, worthwhile endeavors are messy. There aren’t simple answers to these questions, and there shouldn’t be. The fact that we’re doing something worthwhile is underpinned by the fact that we’re even having these conversations, and so authentically and transparently at that. Like great art, you can’t expect people to come away agreeing that this discussion means the same thing, or that it’s solved. But what can be said is that our attitude toward the discussion should reflect ourselves authentically, and should show our steadfast determination to working together, to community and to teamwork. Oscar Wilde said, “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” We should take these words to heart and resolve to never get lost in just the numbers.