General Question

cockswain's avatar

How would libertarians address the fiscal burdens of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and (dare I ask) welfare?

Asked by cockswain (15254points) November 4th, 2010

I honestly don’t know. The rumors I’ve heard would be they are of the philosophy that most people should handle their own problems, but I wondering if they had their way, what would be the ideal solution to addressing these programs?

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64 Answers

jaytkay's avatar

”...before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house…”Sue Lowden, teabagger, libertarian, former Republican candidate for US Senate

cockswain's avatar

@jaytkay There are stupid people in any group. That can’t be representative of the whole. I hope.

jaytkay's avatar

@cockswain Some groups are stupid by definition.

josie's avatar

Your political and social philosophy notwithstanding…
Is it so shocking a notion that people should handle their own problems?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@cockswain

Why call someone stupid for stating an historical fact?? People really DID pay, from time to time, for services with goods. It was called “barter,” and some people STILL use it.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@josie

It is for some, since they’ve been conditioned to think that the government is the source of all that’s good in the world. We’ve witnessed the spectacle of most of an entire city ( New Orleans ) refusing to leave when they knew a hurricaine was approaching because they just KNEW that the government was going to take care of them.

jaytkay's avatar

Sue Lowden was not giving a historical lecture. She was advocating chicken-bartering as an alternative to health insurance.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@jaytkay

Ok then, yes, that is pretty stupid! Heh!

cockswain's avatar

@josie No, but do we stop feeding the elderly as a basic example? I’m not arguing, I’m wanting to know the philosophy.

@CaptainHarley True, that worked 100 years ago. But what is modern libertarian philosophy? We have money to so I don’t need to carry chickens, bricks, and furs with me everywhere I go.

Also, I hope you aren’t implying I think the gov’t is the source of all good. Gov’t is comprised of people, capable of good deeds and errors alike.

Guys, don’t turn this into a shitstorm. I’m looking for an intelligent conversation here.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@jaytkay
Yes, some groups are, by definition, pretty stupid. I tend to lump liberals, socialists, communists and other statists into that category. : )

josie's avatar

@cockswain I promise you that anybody who wants to feed the elderly will not only be free to do so, they will be defended in their choice and action by people like me. And @CaptainHarley too, I suspect.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@cockswain

Here’s the Website of The Libertarian Party. You should be able to find most of what you’re looking for there, or at the very least find some links to other sites for more information:

http://www.lp.org/issues

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
WestRiverrat's avatar

@jaytkay What is wrong with that? I have bartered food for health care before. It ended up being cheaper health care for me at the time, and cheaper food for the Clinic staff. We both won.

How I view libertarianism:

If you cannot work, you should be provided for.
If you choose not to work, you shouldn’t expect me or anyone else to pick up your tab for you.

If you will not work, you will not eat. Jamestown at the founding of the colonies followed this policy, it should still work today.

jaytkay's avatar

@WestRiverrat Good luck bartering for a C-section or cancer treatment. How many chickens do you own?

cockswain's avatar

@josie So you’re counting on the goodwill of the people to just volunteer to feed the elderly? This is a situation that would require excellent organization and no failure.

josie's avatar

@cockswain So, if they don’t cooperate, lets enslave the people and force them do your bidding under the threat of imprisonment or confiscation of their property. Right?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@josie

No, that’s the Obama Plan!

iamthemob's avatar

We’ve witnessed the spectacle of most of an entire city ( New Orleans ) refusing to leave when they knew a hurricaine was approaching because they just KNEW that the government was going to take care of them.

@CaptainHarley has just demonstrated the problem. I was in New Orleans. I almost didn’t evacuate. Because…I couldn’t. I didn’t own a car. I was lucky enough to have a good friend who did…and had room for my roommate, and a couple other of people.

Yes, people will help each other. But the people that stayed didn’t do so because they trusted the government. Maybe some did. And some certainly didn’t leave because they thought nothing was going to happen. But many didn’t leave because everything they owned was in the city, and they couldn’t leave it behind – they might lose everything, and they also didn’t have the means.

My friend saved my life, because I was lucky. If she wasn’t there…and because I simply didn’t have the resources to escape the city…should I have just been expected to help myself?

I would ask that those of you making that argument tell me that. Tell me that, because I didn’t have a car…I should have been left to perhaps die.

josie's avatar

@iamthemob Having a car is the best thing.
Having a friend to help is the next best thing.
Figuring out another alternative is the third best thing.
Forcing a stranger to help you “or else” is something different.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

I seem to remember pictures of about 500 busses sitting in a parking lot, doing nothing, while people were sitting in the Stadium, doing nothing. Maybe waiting on the government to do something?

Hobbes's avatar

The way I see it, a fundamentally different sort of interaction takes place between a doctor and a patient than between a customer in a store and the guy behind the register. If the customer decides they don’t want to buy anything, they can walk out, and spend that money in whatever other way they please. Depending on the ailment, a patient might be able to get a second opinion or go to a different hospital, but they will eventually have to seek treatment. For some sicknesses or injuries, it is possible to go without treatment, but this is not a choice in the same sense as the customer in a store enjoys.

@CaptainHarley – The phenomenon of people refusing to leave their homes in the face of a natural disaster is a widely recorded one which occurs across many places and times, pretty much irrespective of the type of government the people in question live under. I don’t think you can reliably say that the citizens of New Orleans’ main motive for staying was trust in the US Government.

@josie – In what way is a democratically agreed upon tax forced? Our democracy is by no means perfect, but ideally any social service program is funded to the degree to which the population is willing to pay for it. In any case, I think talking about slavery and governments forcing people to do their “bidding” is a huge straw man.

josie's avatar

@Hobbes Suit yourself. But that does not change the fact that although there are all sorts of examples of coercion, the threat of loss of life, freedom, and property (the product of your personal effort) is force.

Hobbes's avatar

@josie – I agree with you. The threat of loss of life, freedom and/or property definitely constitutes force. But you didn’t really answer my question. Do you think that social services require this sort of force?

josie's avatar

No.
Speaking for myself, the only thing stopping me and my friends from contributing more time and money to charity is the fact that the government sucks so much capital out of the economy that we can not afford the time or the money.
There is nothing in the Western conscience that would allow people to simply ignore the disabled, the elderly, the sick.
The American Red Cross, the United Way, countless churches etc, all voluntary organizations, spend millions of freely contributed dollars a year helping such people.
On the other hand, there is plenty in the Western concience that would allow people to ignore the able, but unmotivated or self pitying.
And since there is justice in ignoring the unmotivated and self pitying, what is wrong with that?
But as politics have evolved in the West, as they always evolve when people forget the difference between slaves and free men, ammoral politicians have beguiled some people into believing that there are circumstances when stealing from somebody is justified. Other than when the government does it, when is stealing justified? So why is it justified when the government, behind the veil of the helping the “needy”, does it?

Hobbes's avatar

@josie – Most very wealthy people, however, do not contribute much to charity in terms of percentage of income.

Charity also doesn’t cover services which are necessary but which can’t be effectively organized by private companies on a large enough scale. Take the highway system – nobody would donate to a “highway charity”, but it needed to be built. It also needed to be coordinated by a single organization on a national scale, or it wouldn’t have worked. If you had a multitude of companies all competing to create a single nationwide network, it would have been chaos.

What do you mean by “the Western conscience”? Two things disturb me about that phrase. The first is that it implies “Westerners” are homogeneous in their conscience, and the second is that it implies there is a fundamental difference between “West” and “East”.

I still don’t understand why you think taxation is the same as stealing, so long as it is democratically agreedupon. To my mind, giving money to a government is an act of trust – trust that they are actually using it to help the “needy” and not lining their own pockets. Of course, trust only goes so far, which is why democratic processes ideally allow us to remove officials who violate that trust.

josie's avatar

@Hobbes Democracy only means that people vote for their politicians. It has nothing to do with moral principle.
When people vote for, and pay tribute to, hired guns who in return do favors for them at the forced expense of others, it really is not government in the sense that you may wish or believe that it is.
It is a form of tyranny.
But for us, it has happened gradually, and people don’t see it coming. And some people, actually begin to believe it is good, which is really too bad.
Anyway, the political State takes half of what I earn, they keep all of us in a state of confusion and doubt, they live like kings, and if I bitch, they and their dependent helpless constituents call me cruel and heartless.
Except, I am neither of those.
And I do not believe it is a mistake or misinterpretation when they say it.
It is a deliberate lie.
So screw them and the folks who call me cruel and heartless. Who are they to tell me where my values and sensibilities should be directed?
I suppose, like a lot of people, I will be a partial slave to the State, as long as I can sort of split the difference between their greed, and my needs and happiness.
But there is a point where I won’t do it anymore.
Anyway, I do not want to train wreck the thread.
I am not a Libertarian (that was the OPs question).
Libertarians believe that lethal force may only be used after you have been attacked, but not in the presence of a credible threat.
I do not believe that.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Hobbes I dissagree, most wealthy people just don’t advertise their charitable contributions.

There have always been philanthropists in western society that give much of what they earn to charities. Dale Carnegie, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates come to mind off the top of my head.

Before the government took over giving to the needy, there were more people willing to give to provide for those in need. Now many won’t as they see it as the government’s obligation and not theirs any more.

The US citizen is usually the first in line to provide for those faced with disaster.

josie's avatar

@WestRiverrat Now there is a GA

CaptainHarley's avatar

Ah, but @Hobbes , there are indeed very fundamental differences between East and West!

cockswain's avatar

@josie So, if they don’t cooperate, lets enslave the people and force them do your bidding under the threat of imprisonment or confiscation of their property. Right?

What are you talking about? How did I imply that? I’m suggesting for a libertarian system to work, there would have to be accountability somehow. Who would be accountable for ensuring the elderly are fed? Stay reasonable, I’m not attacking anything, just trying to figure out more about Libertarians.

@CaptainHarley No, that’s the Obama Plan!

What does Obama want to do that is so radical relative to past presidents?

Hobbes's avatar

@CaptainHarley – There are significant cultural differences, but there is nothing fundamentally different about the people who inhabit the “East” and the “West”.

@WestRiverrat – Why wouldn’t they advertise their contributions? I know that wealthy people do exist who give a large percentage of their incomes to charity, but I think they are the exception to the rule.

I would argue that the same basic premise is behind both charity and governmental aid – both involve trusting an organization of people you don’t know to use your money responsibly.

@josie – What you’re talking about it the concentration and abuse of power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many. I agree with you that this is happening today, and that too much power in anyone’s hands is a bad idea, Government included.

The purpose of Democracy, I think, is to regulate power, so that it can be used without resulting in a dangerous imbalance. However, the system practiced in the US has allowed a great deal of power to build up in the hands of a few people. I think these people have influence both in government and in the largest transnational corporations.

Of course, we could easily fund all our social services by cutting into the 60% of our budget we devote to figuring out more efficient ways of murdering people, but that’s simply not possible.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Hobbes I work for a charity. I see all the time people that donate ask not to be publicly linked to their gifts.

Why they don’t want to be linked is their business.

Hobbes's avatar

Yes, but what portion of large companies or extremely wealthy individuals donates large sums to charity anonymously?

josie's avatar

@Hobbes What business is that of yours?

WestRiverrat's avatar

I did not say they gave anonymously, there are too many tax issues now to do it totally anonymously. I said they did not want public recognition for their donations.

The tax break they get is no where near as much as they give, so that is not the primary consideration for their giving.

Hobbes's avatar

I think the same spirit of generosity is behind both charity giving and giving for the public good. They both also require that the giver trust the organization they are donating too. I think democracy is the best means we currently have of establishing trust when the organization in question is a government.

josie's avatar

@Hobbes Dude… Not meaning to be difficult but that is the point. Since when can you trust the government? Are you saying you trust the likes of those amoral, word parsing, corrupt, condescending, preening senators and district reps that repeat talking points on the news every night hoping you are not paying too awful much attention?
You’re better than that.
J out.

Hobbes's avatar

Ideally, the whole point of democracy is that it allows you to trust the government. The qualities you describe are created by a concentration of power without restraint or accountability. The purpose of democracy as I understand it is to provide a mechanism for accountability between those vested with power and the communities they serve.

Our particular incarnation of Democracy isn’t working so well at the moment, I’d agree with you. We may differ on what exactly needs fixing, but so it goes.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Hobbes If you look at the writings of the Founders, they wanted the citizens to develop and maintain a distrust for Career politicians.

In other words trusting the government to do the right thing is the last thing we should be doing in our democracy.

mattbrowne's avatar

There’s also a fiscal burden of not having Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and welfare. It’s harder to calculate, though.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Where people fear the government, there is tryanny. Where the government fears the people, there is freedom.

The government has no business being a charity. The two are entirely separate and never to be mixed.

josie's avatar

@Hobbes
Ideally, the whole point of democracy is that it allows you to trust the government
No.
George Washington said “Government is like fire. A handy servant. A dangerous master.”
The point of democracy is that government is NOT trustworthy, and there needs to be a method of tossing out politicians and changing the government regularly. Aside from killing them, what better method of getting rid of them? Democracy exists because of the recognition that power ultimately corrupts.

Hobbes's avatar

@WestRiverrat – I’m not talking about blind trust. I’m talking about trust based on exactly what you describe – the knowledge that we can toss out politicians and change the government if it is no longer serving the people. Our current form of democracy is a bit broken in this regard, but that doesn’t mean that democracy is a bad idea.

@CaptainHarley – I think the government has business being whatever people decide it should be. I personally think it should provide social services, but that’s just my opinion.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Why should the government provide social services?

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley

@mattbrowne I think addresses that point when he writes: There’s also a fiscal burden of not having Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and welfare. It’s harder to calculate, though.

When you have the government in control of social services, and you have the people holding the government properly accountable (so it does fear the people – and I agree that’s the way it should be), then the government must control the costs and system in a manner that is productive and actually beneficial. Of course, we have to get to that point, but it’s more possible in a government system as it is more transparent. We know the costs, budget, and effect now – if we’re smart, we can work to make it better.

We have no idea what the costs of a private system are. If it doesn’t work, consider the soaring crime rate potentially associated with it. Consider the inevitable subsequent reduction in care for those committing crimes, and thereafter reduction in private charity funding, and the increase in crime from that – a potential vicious circle.

The above is not the clear outcome – but it’s a potential one, and the costs associated are incalculable. The problem is: government should not be a charity, but social welfare systems should not be considered a charity. Calling them such allows for simplified arguments against them outright, instead of an analysis of whether they’re being run too much like a charity instead of systems that promote personal responsibility and growth in the end.

That’s why.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Oh, you mean like the current welfare system which trains people to be dependent upoon the government, to expect the government will take care of them, to pass that attitude on to their children and their children’s children until we have an entire class of people who know nothing else than government welfare? You mean THAT welfare system? It IS a type of charity. How could it not be? What are you going to call it, a “right” to government support? What about the rest of us who have to pay for this under penalty of imprisonment and confiscation of property? Don’t WE have any rights?

The entire system sucks! You want “change?” So do I! Change this system so that people have a limited time on temporary welfare and at the end of the welfare/training get a frakkin’ JOB and become contributing members of society!

iamthemob's avatar

Despite the drastic reliance on sarcasm, rhetorical questions, and unnecessary exclamation points…I agree. ;-) The system should be revamped…but revamping is not eliminating.

CaptainHarley's avatar

My sarcasm keeps me warm at night. : )

Hobbes's avatar

I understand the concern that people will come to rely upon and leach off the system, but in principle do you find anything wrong with the government providing a safety net for people who cannot work due to circumstances beyond their control?

I also wonder why you are so concerned with your tax dollars funding welfare, but not with the fact that most of them go towards funding warfare.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I happen to be concerned about that as well. It just wasn’t the topic under discussion.

No, I’m not averse to a safety net for those who cannot work and who have no family to help them, and who cannot find a charity that will help them.

Hobbes's avatar

Fair enough. So you do think the state should provide some kind of social services? Is it just the degree we disagree on?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Well… yes, and no. It’s the degree, that’s true, but it’s also how it’s administered, to whom, when, and how much.

Hobbes's avatar

Fair enough. It seems to me the only fair way to decide that on a national scale is through some kind of democratic process. Probably not the one we have now, or at least an altered version of it. Would you agree with that?

cockswain's avatar

@Hobbes I like how you’ve handled this discussion. I’ve been too busy to participate to the level you have lately, and may not have worded things as reasonably and succinctly as you. My goal is to find the commonalities and points of agreement with this question. There are a lot of generalizations conservatives vs. liberals make about the “other” side, but when one distills more towards fundamental beliefs through rational discussion, we tend to find we all agree on similar things.

For example, most liberals actually do not believe this misconception “bigger gov’t is best” that conservatives accuse them of . This misconception becomes exaggerated into the idea liberals eventually want socialism. Some may, most don’t . No liberal wants their freedoms removed by the government (actually I shouldn’t speak in absolutes: most liberals don’t want their freedoms removed.)

Most liberals probably don’t think gov’t run healthcare is the best possible solution, but they want something to happen because no one wants to see people go bankrupt because they got sick. Privately run everything sounds great on paper, almost utopic, but it only works if people don’t get too greedy. Liberals want healthcare costs to stop rising and sick to stop getting denied coverage, and so do conservatives. So both sides want the same thing, but there is a fear that anything run by the gov’t will go bad. Personally I don’t think the gov’t can run any industry necessarily more effectively than a private industry. Both can get corrupted.

The idea that gov’t is saying “do this or else you can face consequences” sounds bad, agreed. But there have to be laws, right? I get the libertarian philosophy of trying to get people off welfare and back to work. I don’t think anyone really thinks that’s a bad thing, but liberals get accused to thinking they think the gov’t should take care of anyone who doesn’t feel like working. There may be some that believe that, but I don’t. Statistically, and I don’t want to search for the source, most people on welfare aren’t abusers of the system, but this gets exaggerated and sides are taken.

Regarding Social Security, we all agree that the elderly should be cared for when unable to work. Yet then there is heated debate about how to do it. Here is another misconception: liberals want the gov’t to always handle it and are best at it, and conservatives all want it to be privatized. The gov’t run system will be bankrupt if not altered, but a fully privatized system could leave everyone’s retirement too vulnerable to the market conditions. Also if fully privatized, the it could be subject to corruption if there is no oversight and regulation controlling greedy people from biasing what mutual funds are chosen for the private system. So the best system I’ve seen proposed is a hybrid of the two, which I can find a link for if someone wants.

Gov’t has a role in needing to administer programs with accountability. We obviously can’t just arbitrarily reduce gov’t, but we can’t think adding people and levels to gov’t will solve all problems either. Reasonable people can all get to these conclusions without resorting to the usual rhetoric. These potential discussions where we can find where we agree frequently just devolve into heated arguments where both sides spout off bullshit generalizations about the entire other group. There are extremists, and I’m not one. Anyone reasonable is more towards the middle.

If you take the position that I have displayed liberal philosophies, so therefore I encompass all liberal stereotypes (I want everything run by gov’t to the point of socialism, I don’t care about the economy as much as the environment, I condemn anyone religious, etc) you’re arguing with a concept and not me. If I treat every conservative as evangelical, homophobic, racists, I would be equally stupid in applying those labels to every conservative-minded individual I met.

So how do we move past these surface problems to get to the heart of the matter? This seems to be a fundamental problem: There are people who believe the gov’t is too corrupt and there are people who believe private industry is too corrupt. There is little question that any powerful organization, private or public, becomes corrupted by greedy individuals. This is the real problem. Whether or not we move more power to the gov’t or the private sector appears to result in the same problem. A country run completely by the private sector would be perfect IF ONLY the private sector could self-regulate itself. Gov’t exists to attempt to “fix” this problem.

Does anyone have any sort of idea of a system that maximizes freedom, provides appropriate consequences for injustices (or somehow prevents them from occurring in the first place), and would be satisfactory to a larger segment of our population? How do we bridge the philosophical gap between liberals and libertarians? It seems our efforts would be more productive discussing that than personal attacks highlighting superficial stereotypes.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Hobbes

Not sure I understand the last question. Can you rephrase or something? : )

Hobbes's avatar

Do you think that the degree to which social services are provided by the state, how much money is spent on them, how they are administered etc. should be determined democratically?

cockswain's avatar

@Hobbes Coincidentally, I asked a question similar to what you’re saying recently:

http://www.fluther.com/100259/should-we-be-allowed-to-vote-on-economic-issues-details-inside/

My worry is despite the beauty of the idea of us being allowed to vote on economic issues, the economy is such a complex beast that uninformed people could make dangerously horrible decisions. Ideally, we’d vote incorruptible economists into office to make these decisions for us. I realize that is a bit of a pipe dream though, but even if it did happen, the public may not understand their rationale and become enraged. Think about how Paul Volcker allowed interest rates to reach high levels to break the back of inflation in the early 80s. The average voter was apoplectic at the effect these rates were having on their lives, but probably didn’t understand it’s necessity. As it stands, many argue it paved the way for the subsequent economic prosperity.

Now imagine if there would have been a ballot vote in 1980 to the effect of: “Should there be a law capping interest rates at 8%?” Does every voter know what this would have caused? No.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Hobbes

I’m honestly not sure. There are things to be said either way.

cockswain's avatar

@CaptainHarley If you aren’t sure, would you like to have the power to make a mistake? And I don’t mean “you” alone.

dealrrr's avatar

@josie yes it is so shocking a notion that people should handle their own problems. i can’t imagine a world without tribes, colonies, cities, can you?

Paradox's avatar

@cockswain I’m glad you asked this. I am somewhat of a Libertarian but trying to directly address your question I would say this would be the Libertarian (and my own stance) on social security: This is one area where I agreed with W Bush is the fact he did address the looming social security crisis. This is a crisis that Congess and and former presidents have ignored for many decades.

Social Security is in trouble because demographic shifts and an aging population have undermined the unspoken foundation of the system, which is the practice of taxing younger generations to pay the benefits for current retirees. At the time Social Security started (in the 1930’s) many Americans never reached aged 65. Today many retirees are living well into their 80’s and 90’s. What this means is the current system may collapse in as little as 25 years.

All the while this is going on seniors hope the system (social security) will hold together for the remainder of their lives while the younger generations are hoping the government will somehow magically fix things before they retire. No one wants to hear this but wait until the breaking point is reached in around 20 to 30 years because the government tried to get voters through austerity rather than addressing the problem on hand: let’s wait until the crisis is so bad then address it. There is another side here.

Congress itself is the greatest threat to everyones Social Security retirement funds. What many on Fluther do not seem to be aware of here is the fact that Congress has never required that Social Security tax dollars be kept seperate from general revenues! The social security “trust fund” is not a trust fund at all. All those dollars taken out of your hard earned paychecks are not deposited into an account to be paid to you later. This money (SS) is spent immediately to pay current benefits and to fund unrelated federal programs. The Social Security money taken out of your paychecks is nothing more than basically an “IOU”.

Libertarians (at least most) believe that the best option here is to simply allow more people to keep the extra money on their paychecks to invest as they see fit. I do disagree with “privatizing Social Security” because government investments can be risky so a decent Liberetarian would support allowing individuals to make their own options when it comes to making investments, not the government so I disagreed with W Bush and most Republicans on that one.

The oversized, special interest tainted government has not proven to people like me to be great at managing money. The best answers here come from Ron Paul himself: “The social Security crisis is a spending crisis. The program could be saved tomorrow if Congress simply would stop spending so much money, apply even 10% of the bloated federal budget to a real trust fund, and begin saving your contributions to earn simple interest. That this simple approach seems impossible speaks volumes about the inability of Congress to cut spending no matter what the circumstances”.

This is how a true Libertarian would address the Social Security issue. Libertarians are a far cry from Republicans. Democrats are big government socialists, Republicans are big government capitalists. Libertarians are neither socialists, procorporation nor big government but are all about allowing individuals to determine their own social and financial freedoms away from corporate, government or any other types of special interests. There I actually answered your question.

Paradox's avatar

@cockswain I will try to answer the rest of your question on Medicare/Medicaid and welfare when I get time. I had a long night.

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