Reputation Basis

While reputation may be derived from many relations and concepts, these bases are frequently observed in the design of reputation currencies: ownership, membership and trusteeship.  

Owner reputation is a primary basis of lender-oriented currency design. The benefactor evaluates how likely the recipient is to return or compensate a trade. For example, the recipient might own cash and thus immediately return a favor by giving the seller reusable currency tokens. The currency design is, therefore, aimed at facilitating direct reciprocity.

Member reputation is a primary basis of community-oriented currency design. The benefactor evaluates if a recipient benefits a common cause or resource and how likely that member’s contribution to the community will continue. Even though indirect rather than direct reciprocity is facilitated, there is a strong expectation of a closed-loop circulation of currency within the community. 

Trustee reputation is a primary basis of brand-oriented currency design. The benefactor evaluates if a potential recipient belongs to an entity with a worthwhile specialization and acceptable market performance. The emphasis is on indirect reciprocity without any expectation of closed-loop currency circulation within a predetermined boundary.

To illustrate the concept of trusteeship, imagine a hospital whose mission is to provide healthcare. If the hospital has a reputation for effectively allocating its limited resources to serve patients, then a benefactor would have a good reason to support and accept that hospital’s currency brand. The benefactor should not be concerned whether or not it would eventually benefit directly from using the hospital’s services. Rather, the benefactor should focus on establishing its own reputation as a trustee by effectively fulfilling its specialization.

The preceding comparison does not imply that reputation currencies may emphasize only one conceptual basis. Different reputation bases leads to different approaches to improving market access. On the one hand, it is easy to see that a brand or trusteeship-oriented currency design provides access to the widest market possible since currency use is not limited to direct reciprocity or within community boundaries. On the other hand, it may be argued that a trustee’s reputation offers the least guarantee on redeemability since trusteeship is not as easily qualified or quantified in comparison to ownership or membership.