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Self-interest versus rights

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The bureaucracy of SS takes more than it gives. How is SS supposed to help her if it is bankrupt?

Union workers and needy Grandmas don't have enough of a “self” to be interested in. Most people have an immense potential that they never tap into; a self that is 'worth' being interested in. How is it not in their self interest to discover what they are capable of, rather than mindlessly scrape by on what they can scrounge off of the effort of others? It is more than self interest it is 'Rational' self interest, not blind whims, it is about the greatest potential over the long range course of a life.

A change in perspective could inspire Grandma to discover an amazing skill she didn't know she had, Grandma Moses didn't start selling her work until she was in her 70's: http://en.wikipedia....i/Grandma_moses

The union worker would realize he could run a better business, and start his own company, and inspire all of the best workers in the company to come with him.

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Okay, but we need to add a bit more context to this question to have an intelligible answer. First of all, in a truly emergency situation, one can be justified in violating property rights. For inst

Well yeah. Absolute does not mean without limit, for nothing in reality is limitless. And it doesn't mean "property rights are intrinsically good," for that would mean "good apart from human life." Ab

It is indeed not a literal contradiction to sacrifice others while refusing to sacrifice yourself, and that is not the correct reasoning to support the notion that we should not sacrifice others. The

The bureaucracy of SS takes more than it gives. How is SS supposed to help her if it is bankrupt?

Sure if you count savings going into the SS trust fund as "bankruptcy". But the rich pay most of the taxes to hold up SS and a lot of lower and middle income people, maybe even my Grandma, take out more than they pay in.

Union workers and needy Grandmas don't have enough of a “self” to be interested in. Most people have an immense potential that they never tap into; a self that is 'worth' being interested in. How is it not in their self interest to discover what they are capable of, rather than mindlessly scrape by on what they can scrounge off of the effort of others? It is more than self interest it is 'Rational' self interest, not blind whims, it is about the greatest potential over the long range course of a life.

What definition of self are you using? The self is an individual person as the object of his or her own reflective consciousness? How can you tell that grandma does not have a self? How can you yourself determine if someone does or does not have a self? What does this have to do with collecting social security?

A change in perspective could inspire Grandma to discover an amazing skill she didn't know she had, Grandma Moses didn't start selling her work until she was in her 70's: http://en.wikipedia....i/Grandma_moses

The union worker would realize he could run a better business, and start his own company, and inspire all of the best workers in the company to come with him.

How would collecting Social Security prevent Grandma Moses from doing anything? How would opposing a strike for higher wages help the union worker start his own company? If anything he could use higher wages and union contacts as financial and social capital.

Edited by mustang19
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It looks to me the debate is focused to much on "Self Interest" or "Selfishness".

In Objectivism there is good and evil.

Good: Life and knowing you are alive.

Evil: Anything that is against life.

Stealing bread to stay alive is taking life from someone else (Anything one has produced is apart of ones life). This is an act agents life, therefore evil and agents the primary principle of Objectivism.

An Objectivist would never need to steel food, only take food back from a looter. :) Force may only be used after it has been used, and yes steeling is a force.

So yes selfishness is a great part of Objectivism but Life is its core value.

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Does anyone else agree with BradN? Individuals should put avoiding acts against others before their own self interest?

Acting in ones self interest, one would not have to choose between the two. I don't understand the notion that being selfish must negativity affect others. Acting in ones self interest, positively affect all parties involved. i.e. If a looter was starving and needed food he would resort to steeling (you see them on corners holding signs - Feed Me, I am LAZY). If I were were starving I would trade anything and everything that had with less value to me then the food, both parties benefit. If I were unable to trade for food, someone would have stolen my ability to trade, and force could be used. So I am not "avoiding acts against other before their own self interest" I am defending my rite to life. That is the only situation where actions against another life is acceptable.

How do you steal the ability for trade?

check out Directive 10-289 from Atlas Shrugged.

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When I was trying to grasp a hold on Objectivism, I too had a problem with this. If one is truly to be selfish, why would he not sacrifice others to the self? I had trouble figuring out how a morality based on self-interest is also a morality based on not using force.

To start off, I'd like to quote Thomas Paine:

"He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself"

If you truly wish to support your own interests, you will recognize that to protect this right, you must recognize everyone else's right to support their own self-interest. When and if you violate this, it becomes fair game. You don't have the right to anything, it's just a bunch of brutes fighting for political power to club their opponents.

Next, I would like you to look at it from the other side. Imagine you're the most selfless altruist: you exist to help other people and to serve their needs. Someone comes along and states that you have no right to exist. You've lived your entire life believing this, are you going to stand up to him when he seeks to transgress your rights? Not likely. The selfish man would not recognize someone else's right to transgress his rights.

Next, life itself is a value. When you look at the way men fundamentally survive, it is through their reasoning mind. Force is the negation of the mind. Therefore, when you use force, you abandon the highest value: life.

Finally, let me say this. I believe this may be the most important point: look at politics. Capitalism is based on self-interest and non-aggression. Capitalism recognizes your right to pursue happiness and own your life. The non-aggression principle is implicit in this statement. Socialism is based on selflessness and men living for other people. Socialism is based on force. Socialism is not based on the pursuit of happiness or the right to own your life.

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Acting in ones self interest, one would not have to choose between the two. I don't understand the notion that being selfish must negativity affect others. Acting in ones self interest, positively affect all parties involved. i.e. If a looter was starving and needed food he would resort to steeling (you see them on corners holding signs - Feed Me, I am LAZY). If I were were starving I would trade anything and everything that had with less value to me then the food, both parties benefit. If I were unable to trade for food, someone would have stolen my ability to trade, and force could be used. So I am not "avoiding acts against other before their own self interest" I am defending my rite to life. That is the only situation where actions against another life is acceptable.

What if you have something to trade but the other person doesn't want to trade with you for food? Would they have stolen your ability to trade?

Force is the negation of the mind.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof_by_assertion

How do you prove that force is negation of the mind?

Finally, let me say this. I believe this may be the most important point: look at politics. Capitalism is based on self-interest and non-aggression. Capitalism recognizes your right to pursue happiness and own your life. The non-aggression principle is implicit in this statement. Socialism is based on selflessness and men living for other people. Socialism is based on force. Socialism is not based on the pursuit of happiness or the right to own your life.

Both systems rely on the state; both have laws that limit individual freedom. Neither capitalism nor socialism give the individual complete freedom of action as long they require the existence of a state.

Your question is loaded; it presumes that the "acts against others" is in one's rational self interest.

They can be. We've been discussing them in this thread. Unions, social security, liberal politicians, and so forth can all be in someone's self interest in the examples I provided throughout the thread.

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They can be. We've been discussing them in this thread.

I understand that is your claim, but as you say, you've been discussing this in the thread and it is not a given as it has been disputed by numerous posters. As such, you were asking a question that assumed something that is still in dispute.

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What if you have something to trade but the other person doesn't want to trade with you for food? Would they have stolen your ability to trade?

How do you prove that force is negation of the mind?

No, only if he denies me the ability to trade with others.

If you resort to force have you not abandon the mind? One must defend oneself, but NEVER throw the first punch. It is the person throwing the first punch that has abandoned the mind therefor negating it. I have no other proof, just this simple example.

Edited by BradN
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How do you prove that force is negation of the mind?

Is the use of physical violence against another person a valid argumentative strategy? Are you making any truth claims while doing so? Exchanging propositions? No to all of the above. You are simply ignoring the other person's mind, and basically treating them as if they were an animal or a machine for you to command at your own will. To use force against another rational being is to reject the use of reason in one's dealings with them. If we are having a debate, and I say "All right, I know how we'll settle our disagreement: if you don't agree with me, I'm gonna shoot you with this Colt 45," I think any reasonable person will agree that the debate is now over (not because you agree, but because we are no longer engaging in argumentation, but rather the exchange of blows).

If you agree with me, then you agree that force is the negation of mind, that is to say that to use force against another rational being is to reject reason as one's method of interaction. If one does this, then others are perfectly within their "rights" to use force against you--after all, you don't want to deal with men by reason, so they will honor your wish and deal with you by force.

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No, only if he denies me the ability to trade with others.

So in that case, given the starving-person-lost-in-the-woods-comes-across-stocked-cabin example earlier in this thread where this line of debate originated, it is in your self interest to refuse to steal food and starve to death?

If you resort to force have you not abandon the mind? One must defend oneself, but NEVER throw the first punch. It is the person throwing the first punch that has abandoned the mind therefor negating it. I have no other proof, just this simple example.

How has the person throwing the first punch "abandoned the mind"?

To use force against another rational being is to reject the use of reason in one's dealings with them.

May or may not be true depending on if by "one's dealings with them" you mean "one's social interactions with them"; in which case your statement would make sense, but it then has a different meaning than what I had thought.

From what I can gather from your post, by "abandoning the mind" when one uses force you meant "abandoning attempting to debate them". I had originally thought that what the other poster meant that when one uses aggressive force one stops thinking rationally, which is not necessarily true. If you can steal from another person without them mounting effective retaliation then it may be in your self interest to steal from them and gain some item that will benefit you, making theft in this case a rational thing to do if your goal is to advance your self interest.

I understand that is your claim, but as you say, you've been discussing this in the thread and it is not a given as it has been disputed by numerous posters. As such, you were asking a question that assumed something that is still in dispute.

Okay. Is that all, or are you going to dispute my claims?

Edited by mustang19
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Both systems rely on the state; both have laws that limit individual freedom. Neither capitalism nor socialism give the individual complete freedom of action as long they require the existence of a state.

Nobody gets "complete freedom of action" in anarchism either. Even under anarchism, it's doubtful you can go around doing whatever you want and not face consequences.

They can be. We've been discussing them in this thread. Unions, social security, liberal politicians, and so forth can all be in someone's self interest in the examples I provided throughout the thread.

You have no idea how Objectivists conceive of self-interest. You are not being self-interested if you are taking value from others by force because you are acting on the same principle as someone taking value from you by force. The only way you can truly be self-interested is by not initiating force against others.

I'd also recommend you read "The Objectivist Ethics" before you continue contributing to this thread.

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ari_ayn_rand_the_objectivist_ethics

Edited by Mnrchst
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So in that case, given the starving-person-lost-in-the-woods-comes-across-stocked-cabin example earlier in this thread where this line of debate originated, it is in your self interest to refuse to steal food and starve to death?

It depends on the context. Did someone kidnap you and throw you out into the middle of nowhere (and do you intend to pay the owner back?), or did you voluntarily go out and starve yourself?

How has the person throwing the first punch "abandoned the mind"?

You're attempting to solve a problem by using force instead of actually focusing your mind on resolving the problem peacefully. It takes very little thinking to throw a punch/pull a trigger.

If you can steal from another person without them mounting effective retaliation then it may be in your self interest to steal from them and gain some item that will benefit you, making theft in this case a rational thing to do if your goal is to advance your self interest.

This is only if your standard of value is your own pleasure. Unfortunately, someone else might use their own pleasure as their standard of value and steal from you if you have no means of effective retaliation. Why would you want to live in a world where people think this way?

But even if we go with a standard of your own pleasure, how long do you think you can keep up stealing before you get punished?

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So in that case, given the starving-person-lost-in-the-woods-comes-across-stocked-cabin example earlier in this thread where this line of debate originated, it is in your self interest to refuse to steal food and starve to death?

How has the person throwing the first punch "abandoned the mind"?

Yes, if you value and love life, taking someone else's is against your core principles. "The ends justifies the means" is a polar opposite to Objectivism.

In this case you are stealing from whoever owns the cabin and has produced all the food YOU want to steal. By stealing you have abandons all attempts to sustain your own life, hunting, fishing, using the road that leads to the cabin, etc... Any mindless brute can steal from an empty cabin, you don't have to use your mind, thus "abandoning your mind". With the use of Objective thought you can react to any situation using reason. The ONLY situation where reason no longer works is when dealing with a person who lives with death as there goal.

Have you read any of Ayn Rand's works??

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Others are doing a fine job of that already. So yes, that is all.

I would like to hear your opinion however. How can you prove that unions and social security can never possibly be in anyone's self interest?

You have no idea how Objectivists conceive of self-interest. You are not being self-interested if you are taking value from others by force because you are acting on the same principle as someone taking value from you by force. The only way you can truly be self-interested is by not initiating force against others.

I'd also recommend you read "The Objectivist Ethics" before you continue contributing to this thread.

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ari_ayn_rand_the_objectivist_ethics

The problem is that, if you're positing that the Objectivist definition of self interest is different from the dictionary definition of self interest, you should make that clear to people. In some ways the Objectivist definition of self-interest is entirely opposite the commonly used definition, and saying that Objectivism is a philosophy based on self-interest would be misleading.

It depends on the context. Did someone kidnap you and throw you out into the middle of nowhere (and do you intend to pay the owner back?), or did you voluntarily go out and starve yourself?

Let's say you went on a camping trip, your compass broke, and now you're lost. And regardless, how is it in your self interest to starve to death because of moral restraint in any situation?

This is only if your standard of value is your own pleasure. Unfortunately, someone else might use their own pleasure as their standard of value and steal from you if you have no means of effective retaliation. Why would you want to live in a world where people think this way?

I wouldn't want to live in such a world. But we're talking about one individual's action, not collective behavior. It can still be in your individual self interest to use force. I use the dictionary definition of self interest by the way: a focus on the needs or desires of oneself.

But even if we go with a standard of your own pleasure, how long do you think you can keep up stealing before you get punished?

Possibly forever. Depends on the situation.

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The problem is that, if you're positing that the Objectivist definition of self interest is different from the dictionary definition of self interest, you should make that clear to people. In some ways the Objectivist definition of self-interest is entirely opposite the commonly used definition, and saying that Objectivism is a philosophy based on self-interest would be misleading.

Have you ever actually read Ayn Rand? Because she drives this point home over and over... and over...

The Ayn Rand lexicon entry on selfishness is filled with nothing but passages that clarify this point and precisely what she means when she refers to selfishness: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/selfishness.html

Example: "There is a fundamental moral difference between a man who sees his self-interest in production and a man who sees it in robbery. The evil of a robber does not lie in the fact that he pursues his own interests, but in what he regards as to his own interest; not in the fact that he pursues his values, but in what he chose to value; not in the fact that he wants to live, but in the fact that he wants to live on a subhuman level..."

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Have you ever actually read Ayn Rand? Because she drives this point home over and over... and over...

Actually, no. But what you said makes Objectivism make a whole lot more sense to me.

The thing is that Objectivists have their own arbitrary definition of self interest which is very different from the dictionary one, and is actually similar to the dictionary definition of altruism. The problem is when O'ists tell other people that their philosophy is based on self interest when that's not entirely true and has what would be called altruistic aspects (like respecting property when it is in your self interest to steal) by the conventional definition of these terms.

Well, for what it's worth every time I have used self interest in this thread I have meant the dictionary definition of the term, not the one Ayn Rand came up with. In that sense I cannot see how Objectivism places self interest as its highest value. The Grandma Debate remains unresolved.

Edited by mustang19
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The thing is that Objectivists have their own arbitrary definition of self interest which is very different from the dictionary one, and is actually similar to the dictionary definition of altruism. The problem is when O'ists tell other people that their philosophy is based on self interest when that's not entirely true and has what would be called altruistic aspects (like respecting property when it is in your self interest to steal) by the conventional definition of these terms.

A) It's not arbitrary. B.) It is entirely true that the ethical philosophy of Objectivism is based on self-interest. There are no altruistic aspects, only principles which clarify what exactly is in a person's long-term interest and why. C) As I said before, Ayn Rand spent a great deal of time explaining how her conception of self-interest differs with the mainstream conception. She devoted the entire introduction to "The Virtue of Selfishness" to the question of (I quote verbatim) "Why do you use the word 'selfishness' to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?" It's the very first issue she addresses in the collection of her essays that center on ethics. It's not her fault or ours that the occasional person wanders into the conversation expecting to be able to know exactly what she means without actually reading a word she wrote.

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A) It's not arbitrary.

It is arbitrary in the sense that anyone could do what Rand did- reframe "self interest" to become something other than its dictionary definition- and change words to mean anything they like.

B.) It is entirely true that the ethical philosophy of Objectivism is based on self-interest. There are no altruistic aspects, only principles which clarify what exactly is in a person's long-term interest and why.

If those principles were logically consistent I would have no problem. As far as I can tell, Rand (I don't know if she shares the views of every Objectivist) achieve this consistency only by redefining terms.

C) As I said before, Ayn Rand spent a great deal of time explaining how her conception of self-interest differs with the mainstream conception. She devoted the entire introduction to "The Virtue of Selfishness" to the question of (I quote verbatim) "Why do you use the word 'selfishness' to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?" It's the very first issue she addresses in the collection of her essays that center on ethics. It's not her fault or ours that the occasional person wanders into the conversation expecting to be able to know exactly what she means without actually reading a word she wrote.

It does make it difficult for other people to understand you, though, when your definition of self interest differs from the commonly used dictionary definition of the term. A more accurate and clear way of referring to the value that you call "self interest" would be something like "respect for private property and productiveness". Putting collective values such as respect for law and productiveness above one's self interest would generally be considered altruism by the dictionary definition.

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It is arbitrary in the sense that anyone could do what Rand did- reframe "self interest" to become something other than its dictionary definition- and change words to mean anything they like.

Her definition was very simple: concern with one's own interests. That is the dictionary definition. What she took issue with was the idea that our interests often involved clashes with those around us, that there are widespread conflicts of interests among men, that an individual pursuing his or her own self interest is a danger, rather than a boon, to those around. She sought to change the connotations of the word, not strictly the definition, and she sought with her philosophy to establish principles which fleshed out in more detail exactly what types of activities are in every man's self-interest.

Putting collective values such as respect for law and productiveness above one's self interest would generally be considered altruism by the dictionary definition.

...You do realize that her whole argument centers around the idea that these things do not need to be put above one's self-interest. They constitute part of the interest of every human being.

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The thing is that Objectivists have their own arbitrary definition of self interest which is very different from the dictionary one, and is actually similar to the dictionary definition of altruism.

Unsupported assertion.

Why don't you provide a dictionary definition and we'll see if it is "very different" from Rand's.

In fact Ayn Rand's definition of "altruism" is pretty much spot on the dictionary definition (all definitions from dictionary.com) of: "the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism)" and "the philosophical doctrine that right action is that which produces the greatest benefit to others". In fact Ayn Rand's ethics is often referred to by her and others as egoism.

As for "selfishness" Rand's definition is pretty consistent with the dictionary definition of: "devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others" and "chiefly concerned with one's own interest, advantage, etc, esp to the total exclusion of the interests of others". You see, even the dictionary leaves the wiggle room of considering other's interests by including the words "primarily" and "chiefly"

So the definition of "selfishness" is "acting for one's own benefit" and the definition of "altruism" is "acting for the benefit of others". Appropriately, the definitions oppose one another and Ayn Rand hasn't changed those definitions. What she has done, not just differently but uniquely, is to figure out and prove what is entailed by acting selfishly, what one should regard as their self-interest, what one should choose to value (which is what Dante was trying to point out).

So your unsupported assertion is false, you should be more careful.

Acting rationally with one's self as the beneficiary of those actions is what egoism or selfishness or rational self-interest are all about -- and there is nothing about egoism that says you may not consider how others (especially your loved ones) will be affected by your actions. In fact it is the altruists who have intentionally redefined the concept "selfish" by propounding that package deal which says that acting for yourself necessarily entails acting against others -- clearly it doesn't. As the founding fathers discovered acting Rightfully is the only proper way to act in society. Ayn Rand further elaborated and proved that acting Rightfully is rational, moral and in one's self-interest.

Actually, if you bothered to read Rand instead of choosing to argue against that which you are ignorant of, you might learn something.

It is arbitrary in the sense that anyone could do what Rand did- reframe "self interest" to become something other than its dictionary definition- and change words to mean anything they like.

But that's not really the meaning of "arbitrary" either. Arbitrary means deciding something by whim without any reference to reality and neither of those conditions applies to what Rand did. She was very methodical about defining concepts and always insisted they be connected to reality. Again, if you bothered to read Rand you would discover that definitions are a very important part of her epistemology and she has elucidated their proper role and a valid method to arrive at a proper definition but first comes the concept. First one must have a clear idea of what the referents in reality are for a concept.

What you should be asking is if Ayn Rand's conception of selfishness is right or if the commonly held conception is right and clearly the common conception of "selfish" is wrong. After all, Bernie Madoff's problem is often identified as being too selfish, which doesn't even pass the laugh test -- he is in jail, most of his family and friends hate him, he hates himself -- it doesn't sound to me like any of that is in his self-interest.

If those principles were logically consistent I would have no problem. As far as I can tell, Rand (I don't know if she shares the views of every Objectivist) achieve this consistency only by redefining terms.

How can you possibly tell? You have already admitted that you haven't even read Rand so you have no idea whether she is logical or consistent or principled or has redefined terms. You are coming from a position of total ignorance, that I KNOW is illogical, and trying to argue from a position of ignorance is also illogical, unprincipled and inconsistent.

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Her definition was very simple: concern with one's own interests. That is the dictionary definition. What she took issue with was the idea that our interests often involved clashes with those around us, that there are widespread conflicts of interests among men, that an individual pursuing his or her own self interest is a danger, rather than a boon, to those around. She sought to change the connotations of the word, not strictly the definition, and she sought with her philosophy to establish principles which fleshed out in more detail exactly what types of activities are in every man's self-interest.

...You do realize that her whole argument centers around the idea that these things do not need to be put above one's self-interest. They constitute part of the interest of every human being.

Well the dictionary definition isn't precise so if you think Rand uses this definition of "self esteem" then that might work. In that case we're back to the question of whether the life choices she advocates will always advance everyone's self interest. Why exactly should Grandma protest Social Security? TS hasn't gotten back to me yet on that.

How can you possibly tell? You have already admitted that you haven't even read Rand so you have no idea whether she is logical or consistent or principled or has redefined terms. You are coming from a position of total ignorance, that I KNOW is illogical, and trying to argue from a position of ignorance is also illogical, unprincipled and inconsistent.

Okay, I honestly think you're right here. I was going off an understanding of Objectivism based on a few forum posts here, not Rand's work. Now how is Social Security against Grandma's self interest?

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