A limit to everyone being able to participate as validator (beside for personal financial interest) to increase decentralization of authority, is the affordability. With 32 ETH hard-coded as the minimum requirement, as the price continues to increase (with economic applicability) over time (never mind short-term volatility), we will see increasing centralization of participating validators, i.e. you will only see old validators staying (some may cash out and leave for retirement) and no new validator coming in. Therefore, unless the problem of affordability is resolved, we will see the need for 3rd-party custody services. Of course we can also see further need for tighter regulation to prevent fraud and misappropriation from such 3rd parties.
One solution to solving affordability that I can think of is to make the requirement affordable at least to 80% to 90% of those in working class, say, maybe a minimum requirement of 1 ETH, or even 0.5 ETH. Now we may think that’s illogical, but say that again if/when the price of ETH reaches $1 mil.
Privilege to validate transactions should scale with the amount of ETH staked. For example, if a major validator staked 1 mil of ETH (not USD), then he/she can validate transactions up to, say, 50% of its staked ETH amount, that is 500k ETH. If everything goes well, he/she earns a small “commission” of that 500k ETH. If he/she tries anything fanciful, he/she loses 1 mil of ETH.
The poor average Joe that get to stake 0.5 ETH and becomes a validator also gets to validate transactions, but so far as long as they are up to 50% of the staked ETH, or 0.25 ETH in this example.
In this situation where the minimum requirement is not hard-coded, almost everyone, including the poor, gets to be validators and enforces network decentralization.
And the protocol be such that everyday menial transactions (such as buying a cup of coffee) be relayed to validators with small stakes. In USD, say a tx to buy a cup of coffee that costs USD5 should be relayed to validators with stakes of USD10 or more. Smaller staked validators should be given top priority over gargantuan stakers. Gargantuan stakers with over 1 mil ETH, for example, can validate tx that involves 500k ETH or lower, for example.
In such structure, we can see being a smaller validator gets to benefit far more because most daily tx involves small priced items. Such tx have way much higher velocity of money. Gargantuan stakers can have institutional-level tx instead. Everyone gets a fair share of the pie, the number of validators will grow, and the network will be healthily decentralized.
As for the return of being a validator, we will leave that to the balance of economics. If the return is 4.1%/year, then validators will naturally be inclined to move out to alternative investment options that offer higher return. With lower validators, the return will readjust upward, eventually to match the returns of alternative investments, risk-adjusted. The balance of economics will resolve all imbalances by itself, naturally. There is no need to worry about the return from staking for being too low or too high. It is low/high for economic reasons.