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Why Politics is Pointless

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The Objectivist theory of politics mainly concerns itself with the normative aspects of politics. Being based in ethics, it has a lot to say about what society should be like, but very little about what it is actually like.

After studying the subject for several years, I have come to the conclusion that politics is not about force, but rather about power.

Here is a good place to define our terms. By "force" I mean the application or threat of physical violence. By "power" I mean the ability to steer one's environment (including any agents within that environment) towards a desired state. "Organization" will mean a given group of people that coordinate to pursue a set of common goals. I also distinguish between two kinds of power, "collective power" and "distributive power". "Collective power" is the ability of an organization to achieve its goals. "Distributive power" is the ability of an organization to allocate value (costs and benefits in the abstract) among its members and other organizations. The range of goals that an organization is allowed to pursue is as wide as possible, even if the goal makes no sense. That means that an organization can try to do anything, from producing a product, to committing genocide, to summoning Azathoth. Collective power can always, at least to some extent, be converted to distributive power. Distributive power is necessarily zero-sum, since it merely allocates what value has already been produced. Each individual may be regarded as an organization. Now, we can define "society" as the collection of all organizations.

So what are the laws governing the behavior of organizations?

1. The overall amount of collective power in society tends to increase over time.

This is true because humans are intelligent beings that, through the application of their intellect and technology, can steer the environment toward a desired state better than chance. This includes states where humans have even greater ability to change the environment. Thus, control over the environment is achieved. In some sense, we become more "prosperous" but this comes with the cost of us having even more destructive potential. That is, an advanced society might have the internet, but it will also have nukes.

2. Some organizations are more powerful than others.

This is simply because "life ain't fair". Some people will live in deserts and not have good land for farming. That's just the way it is.

3. The amount of distributive power available to the most powerful organization tends to increase over time.

This is true because collective power increases over time, and collective power may be converted into distributive power. For example, when the ancient Mesopotamians first invented irrigation agriculture, they began to trade some of their excess food with the surrounding hunter-gatherer tribes for furs and livestock. The hunter-gatherers eventually abandoned their traditional way of life and got all their food from the Mesopotamians. The Mesopotomaians figured out that the tribesmen could no longer produce their food independently and thus began to charge a higher price for their food. This is because the tribesmen's dependency increased the Mesopotomians' distributive power.

4. In a conflict among organizations, the more powerful organizations have a higher chance of victory.

5. When the contest is for power, having power makes it easier to win more power.

6. Those organizations which seek to maximize their power (not necessarily as an explicit goal) tend to do so.

7. Reversing 5 and 6, we see that the most powerful organizations probably also seek to maximize their own power, regardless of their stated goals. This is the old wisdom "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." 5 and 6 in their original forms essentially say that "Corruption empowers. Absolute corruption empowers absolutely." But now we can use these ideas to make predictions about the course of history.

To illustrate the truth of number 7, we can look at the history of communism. The example of communism is interesting for two reasons. First, it illustrates the seventh law. Secondly, it is the best and most comprehensive attempt by human beings anywhere to change human society on a fundamental level ever. My theory, however, will explain why any such attempt will inevitably fail.

Communists thought the economy was the sole source of collective power and that the "mode of production" determined who held all the distributive power. They thought that if you eliminated distributive power from the economy through socialism, then the distributive power of other aspects of society, such as the state, would disappear as well. Thus, after socialism, according to Marx, the state would just whither away. Only collective power would remain, and everyone would benefit from it "equally". (Not that everyone would receive the same or be paid the same. This is a caricature of communist ideology. To them, it just means that what people get for their work will not be influenced by "arbitrary" distributive power)

Let's pretend we are revolutionaries in Tsarist Russia. How do we go about implementing communism? Well, in order to do that, our actions need to have the desired effect on our environment. Thus, we need to gain power. And to make the big changes communism requires, we're gonna need quite a lot of it. This is just what the communists did. They took control of the military and then the state, and then, using the state, they took over everything else. However, every organization will have competitors, even if those competitors are smaller organizations inside itself. Hence, in order to implement communism, we need to eliminate the competition. This is why there were purges within the communist party itself. When you've taken over everything, the only place future enemies can come from is from inside the organization. Since our goal is to eliminate distributive power, we need to relinquish our own distributive power to the rest of society. But the rest of society might contain organizations that don't like communism, thus we cannot relinquish any of our power.

We now have a situation where people who originally sought to remove distributive power from human society entirely are doing everything they can to maintain it, while simultaneously believing that their actions are doing just the opposite. This result is not some bizarre anomaly of communist psychology. It is the outcome we should expect of any revolutionary program.

The American Revolution differed only in the scope of its ambitions. In post-revolutionary America, there was slavery and only land-owning white males could vote, despite the inalienable rights of the individual that the founders sought to protect and enshrine in law. Two centuries later, and the situation is not fundamentally different. The state is bigger than ever, the government taps your phone, and Crony Capitalism is the only kind that has ever existed anywhere. These outcomes are not anomalous when you have an accurate theory of human society. They are merely to be expected.

From here, we can make the prediction that the future will suck even more than the present.

Thus politics is pointless because the fundamental problems can never be resolved. One can only ever change who the winners of the moment will be.

Questions? Criticisms?

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Polly ticks is pointless. That's the blunt truth. It don't matter a damn who you vote for. Different ass hole, same shit.

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The American Revolution differed only in the scope of its ambitions. In post-revolutionary America, there was slavery and only land-owning white males could vote, despite the inalienable rights of the individual that the founders sought to protect and enshrine in law. Two centuries later, and the situation is not fundamentally different. The state is bigger than ever, the government taps your phone, and Crony Capitalism is the only kind that has ever existed anywhere. These outcomes are not anomalous when you have an accurate theory of human society. They are merely to be expected.

Welcome to OL:

I would suggest you check your facts. Your above statement needs to be modified:

New Jersey Recognizes the Right of Women to Vote

February 22, 1797

In 1797 New Jersey made history by recognizing the right of women to vote. The enormity of this event cannot be overstated. Never before in all of recorded history had women been given voting rights. It is no accident that this happened in the United States, a country founded on the idea of equality.

On February 22, 1797, the New Jersey Assembly passed “An Act to regulate the Election of Members of the Legislative-Council and the General Assembly, Sheriffs and Coroners, in this State,” which specifically included women in the franchise. The status of women voters had been unclear for decades. The 1776 New Jersey Constitution had vaguely stated that “all inhabitants” of the state could vote. To remedy this, a voting law in 1790, which applied only to seven counties, had clarified the Constitution by using the phrase “he or she” in referring to voters. Finally, in an effort to create uniformity, the Assembly passed the 1797 voting law, recognizing the right of women to vote across the state.

The 1797 law shows that women could, and did vote during the Founding period. In fact, it is likely that women voted in New Jersey even before 1797. The state Constitution’s vague guarantee to “all inhabitants” probably allowed women to vote in the 1780s. Certainly, women’s suffrage was not a controversial issue in the state: the 1790 voting law was approved with only three dissenting votes in the Assembly. Despite this, women apparently did not vote in large numbers until after the passage of the 1797 law. There is no record of any public discourse on women voting until a 1797 legislative race in Elizabethtown, when the local women turned out en masse to decide a close election.

Women voted in large numbers until 1807, when the Assembly passed a law limiting suffrage to free white males. The 1807 law was not seen as specifically hostile to women; instead, it was intended to clarify the Constitution’s guarantee of the franchise to “all inhabitants.” Because some objected that “all inhabitants” could allow slaves and aliens to vote, the Assembly acted to clarify the state’s voting requirements. Interestingly, the women of New Jersey did not object to their exclusion with any rigor; they did not lobby or protest against the law.

New Jersey’s decision to grant women the right to vote is perfectly in keeping with the United States Constitution, which leaves voter qualifications up to the states. Contrary to popular opinion, the 19th Amendment did not give women the right to vote; it merely guaranteed women the right to vote. By the time the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, more than three-fourths of the states already allowed women to vote in some or all elections.

Ultimately, the seeds of women’s suffrage were sown in the Declaration of Independence’s dedication to equality.

This is from the Heritage Foundation's website...http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/primary-sources/new-jersey-recognizes-

the-right-of-women-to-vote

A...

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Didn't Johnny Depp use the kraken to defeat crony capitalism?

And which brought indoor plumbing to the poor distributive or collective power, or is that collective distributive power (effluence?)

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Didn't Johnny Depp use the kraken to defeat crony capitalism?

And which brought indoor plumbing to the poor distributive or collective power, or is that collective distributive power (effluence?)

It was a combination of the two.

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If the poitical future will always "suck more" than the political present, does this mean that England in the 19th century is worse than England in the time of Henry VIII?

I don't get the impression from reading either the newspapers or Will Durant's Story of Civilization that human history has been a steady, uninterrupted descent from horrible to ever-worse.

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If the poitical future will always "suck more" than the political present, does this mean that England in the 19th century is worse than England in the time of Henry VIII?

I don't get the impression from reading either the newspapers or Will Durant's Story of Civilization that human history has been a steady, uninterrupted descent from horrible to ever-worse.

That's not exactly what I'm saying.

The tendency for collective power to increase means that, at the "start" of human society everybody becomes more wealthy (in the abstract sense described in the OP). But as time goes on, the tendency of distributive power to increase and allocate the wealth produced by society to the powerful means that wealth inequality is exacerbated. Therefore a few lucky people become astronomically wealthy, but most people see their gains begin to slow down, reach a peak, and then decrease, even as more wealth is produced than ever.

EDIT: Then again, you can only lose so much before you die. So as long as there are people still living in an area, this will tend to be a cyclical process.

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Therefore a few lucky people become astronomically wealthy, but most people see their gains begin to slow down, reach a peak, and then decrease, even as more wealth is produced than ever.

I'm confused...

Is your premise that people who become astronomically wealthy are "lucky?'

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I'm confused...

Is your premise that people who become astronomically wealthy are "lucky?'

I think chance is the biggest determinant of wealth, yes.

Ah so you are a progressive Randian Objectivist...

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Ah so you are a progressive Randian Objectivist...

No.

An O'bama, Elizabeth Warren Objectivist?

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Before this becomes a meme, this notion of "distributive power" on par with "collective power" is jargon that needs some serious unpacking.

Starting with the definition of power as "the ability to steer one's environment (including any agents within that environment) towards a desired state."

I don't use this jargon or this meaning. (But I'm going to mull it over.)

It's that "one" who bothers me. That "one" who is supposed to do all the "steering" and distributing and collecting in his or her "environment." I wonder who wants to be that "one," I wonder...

On first blush, there's way too much assumption of central planning and the kind benevolent beloved leader we all have to bow down to in this jargon.

I'm a checks and balances fan. The very recent slicing and dicing of governmental power of the Founding Fathers, added to putting government power into a document instead of a person, added to individual rights, added to capitalism (or some semblance of it in fundamentals) has produced and "distributed" far more wealth for mankind than all the centuries of previous human history combined.

The notion that people are getting poorer and poorer is a myth. The human population is exploding and average life spans are increasing at a rate unseen in human history. There is a budget problem in paying social security benefits because people were supposed to have died off. Hellooooo...

Even the folks in Brazilian favelas eat well. (Out in the desert they are screwed, but not because anyone took the goodies from them. They have always been screwed out there ever since anyone can remember.)

But still, if you want to see poor, try shantytowns in undeveloped and developing countries, not American city slums, and especially not suburbs.

Stress kills people in America. Not hunger. After living in another culture for over 30 years, I constantly see a wing of Americans take the vast wealth the poor here enjoy for granted and complain about how little it is and how worse it is going to get for them.

I don't know if this opening discussion is an attempt to get people interested in Rand to start accepting and using collectivist-like jargon or it's just part of the convoluted mess left over from the current piss-poor American education coming through in one of the more intelligent students I have seen, but I don't resonate with this approach at all.

If this is an attempt at some kind of propaganda, please, there are far more effective methods. I know that because I study them.

Michael

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An O'bama, Elizabeth Warren Objectivist?

I think the title of the thread makes it quite clear that I don't have any politics to speak of.

Before this becomes a meme, this notion of "distributive power" on par with "collective power" is jargon that needs some serious unpacking.

Starting with the definition of power as "the ability to steer one's environment (including any agents within that environment) towards a desired state."

I don't use this jargon or this meaning. (But I'm going to mull it over.)

It's that "one" who bothers me. That "one" who is supposed to do all the "steering" and distributing and collecting in his or her "environment." I wonder who wants to be that "one," I wonder...

Any person or organization is capable of wielding collective power.

On first blush, there's way too much assumption of central planning and the kind benevolent beloved leader we all have to bow down to in this jargon.

If you're going to use such an inclusive definition of "central planning" then every business is centrally planned and every business owner is a kind, benevolent beloved leader we all have to bow down to.

These definitions of power are intended to be as applicable to as many political situations as possible, including complete anarchy. There is no underlying assumption of central planning or authority.

I'm a checks and balances fan. The very recent slicing and dicing of governmental power of the Founding Fathers, added to putting government power into a document instead of a person, added to individual rights, added to capitalism (or some semblance of it in fundamentals) has produced and "distributed" far more wealth for mankind than all the centuries of previous human history combined.

Romans could have said as much of their society in their time, as could Sargon of Akkad of his empire, as could most of the monarchs of Europe in the 17th century, and so could present day Americans about their mixed-economy socialist paradise run by God-King/Dear Leader Obama. But so will any post-capitalist society that is yet to come. This is only to be expected, and does not contradict the predictions of the theory at all.

That being said, the Founding Fathers did not become less powerful after the revolution just because they castrated the state. They shaped the state to serve their interests, just as the Communist Party did in Russia. It is no accident that the most prominent leaders of the American Revolution were rich, white, land-owners and slaveholders and that political participation was limited to property-owners and that slavery was not abolished despite the supposed commitment to individual rights.

Power, even in present-day America, is held primarily by the economic and not the political system (state).

The notion that people are getting poorer and poorer is a myth.

I did not say that people always get poorer, exactly. Look at post #7:

The tendency for collective power to increase means that, at the "start" of human society everybody becomes more wealthy (in the abstract sense described in the OP). But as time goes on, the tendency of distributive power to increase and allocate the wealth produced by society to the powerful means that wealth inequality is exacerbated. Therefore a few lucky people become astronomically wealthy, but most people see their gains begin to slow down, reach a peak, and then decrease, even as more wealth is produced than ever.

EDIT: Then again, you can only lose so much before you die. So as long as there are people still living in an area, this will tend to be a cyclical process.

If this is an attempt at some kind of propaganda, please, there are far more effective methods. I know that because I study them.

It can't be, as my whole point is that any political agenda is doomed to failure.

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I'm confused...

Is your premise that people who become astronomically wealthy are "lucky?'

I think chance is the biggest determinant of wealth, yes.

No one who works productively to create their own wealth could ever say that.

Greg

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People that started from nothing and amassed fortunes can not be said to achieved it by luck. They have to achieve it and keep delivering, that takes work.

Most people that win the lotto? Broke in 5 years. Why? Because they know nothing about what it takes to GET there.

Many children that inherit wealth end up making a total mess of everything...

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From here, we can make the prediction that the future will suck even more than the present.

From the attitude you have expressed, I can make the prediction that your future will suck even more than your present.

What is missing from your view is the innate ability to act contrary to the collective as an autonomous individual. Self generated actions possess the power to set into motion different sets of circumstances which diverge from the downward spiral you described.

Thus politics is pointless because the fundamental problems can never be resolved.

I agree.

There is no such thing as a political solution, because you are the only one who can resolve your own fundamental problems by your own actions.

No one else will do it for you.

Greg

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People that started from nothing and amassed fortunes can not be said to achieved it by luck. They have to achieve it and keep delivering, that takes work.

Most people that win the lotto? Broke in 5 years. Why? Because they know nothing about what it takes to GET there.

Many children that inherit wealth end up making a total mess of everything...

And why not? If you weren't lucky, you would probably have been born in a place and era where just about everything you produce is seized by your lord. How wealthy could you reasonably expect to be then? It wouldn't matter how productive you were, you would be born a serf and you would die a serf.

Most people that win the lotto are broke in 5 years because cash is not an economic investment. People who inherit actual wealth, such as a business or two, tend to keep it.

From the attitude you have expressed, I can make the prediction that your future will suck even more than your present.

What is missing from your view is the innate ability to act contrary to the collective as an autonomous individual. Self generated actions possess the power to set into motion different sets of circumstances which diverge from the downward spiral you described.

Can you outline how the bolded is supposed to actually work out in reality? What exactly is your plan for dealing with society as it is?

If you act contrary enough to the wrong people it may well end up costing you your freedom and/or life.

I agree.

There is no such thing as a political solution, because you are the only one who can resolve your own fundamental problems by your own actions.

No one else will do it for you.

You're missing the point entirely. The fundamental problems don't lie with any individual but with society as a whole.

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People that started from nothing and amassed fortunes can not be said to achieved it by luck. They have to achieve it and keep delivering, that takes work.

Most people that win the lotto? Broke in 5 years. Why? Because they know nothing about what it takes to GET there.

Many children that inherit wealth end up making a total mess of everything...

Good point, Jules.

Creating your own wealth through useful production demands moral character. The same character required to create wealth is what makes it possible to keep it and to continue to create more. That's why those with no moral character who are given what they did not rightfully work to earn, quickly squander it and revert to their former state.

Greg

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Good point, Jules.

Creating your own wealth through useful production demands moral character. The same character required to create wealth is what makes it possible to keep it and to continue to create more. That's why those with no moral character who are given what they did not rightfully work to earn, quickly squander it and revert to their former state.

Greg

So are you saying that someone who has their wealth seized by the state is lacking in moral character?

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Can you outline how the bolded is supposed to actually work out in reality? What exactly is your plan for dealing with society as it is?

I've already been dealing with society just as it is for most of my life simply by being the one who takes the initiative to set the moral tone in my business and personal relationships. This allows the freedom to consistently enjoy a good life independent of economic and political cycles.

If you act contrary enough to the wrong people it may well end up costing you your freedom and/or life.

Good point. That's why I have absolutely nothing to do with the wrong people. They have their own kind upon which to feed. It's called freedom of association. I freely choose to associate with my own kind who share my values.

You're missing the point entirely. The fundamental problems don't lie with any individual but with society as a whole.

You have just explained why your future will suck even more than your present does right now. Because you freely chose to tie your own fate to that of the collective, you get the fate you deserve.

Greg

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Good point, Jules.

Creating your own wealth through useful production demands moral character. The same character required to create wealth is what makes it possible to keep it and to continue to create more. That's why those with no moral character who are given what they did not rightfully work to earn, quickly squander it and revert to their former state.

Greg

So are you saying that someone who has their wealth seized by the state is lacking in moral character?

Yes.

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After studying the subject for several years, I have come to the conclusion that politics is not about force, but rather about power.

Here is a good place to define our terms. By "force" I mean the application or threat of physical violence. By "power" I mean the ability to steer one's environment (including any agents within that environment) towards a desired state.

Off the cuff, I think a little better definition of power is the ability to exercise control. That said, I don't think that force and power are seperate alternatives. Indeed, in politics they go together. Having political power is the right to make and enforce laws that apply to a society. A government behaves, even if it doesn't outright say so, as a monopolist that insists it has the legitimate and exclusive authority to compel others to obey its laws or rules.

Indeed, considering power and force as seperate alternatives obscures the difference between power without force and power with force. The executives of a large business have a lot of power to control what is done within the business. However, they don't do it with force. A government uses its power to exert control and it backs it up with force. Of course, the executives of a large business may in some cases act with force indirectly via political influence.

P.S. One of the definitions of "power" in the American Heritage Dictionary is "the ability or official capacity to exercise control; authority."

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Power, even in present-day America, is held primarily by the economic and not the political system (state).

Now that's a statement.

Let anyone believe it who thinks we can ignore the government and see how far that goes.

Power today is held by economic interests in cahoots with the government. Blaming one or the other and not blaming the union of the two is playing the sucker game they want you to play.

Oh... I forgot. It's "distributive power" and "collective power" that are the true invisible hands controlling all our lives and making them suck. So we might as well get used to eternal suckdom. Life is bad and will only get worse.

What's the use anyway? Might as well obey. (sigh) :smile:

If I get angry at anything, I am really angry at the American educational system that keeps the younger people from seeing what is right in front of them as they focus on nonessentials.

Here's what I mean. If you want to see power, real power, this is power:

Derren Brown is simply an entertainer using this stuff to delight his audience, but transfer that PWA (perception without awareness) capacity for programming the unconscious short-term from the stage to long-term in the classroom that kids have to go to for years on end, and look what happens.

The aware part of the brain processes about 40 sensory inputs per second and the unaware part processes 11 million per second (or 20 million--I've seen both presented). Regardless of the number, that's a hell of a difference.

So in schools, those in control yap on and on and on and on about distribution, power-hungry old white guys, inequality, social justice, etc., pouring that crap into the unconscious part of the minds of students, drip drip drip drip drip drip drip day after day, and that becomes the unchosen premises for their victim's rationality.

When you mention population explosion, increased life spans, etc., as evidence that things cannot be anywhere near disaster to the newly brainwashed, that doesn't fit the embedded narrative in their heads, so it bounces off them like water off a duck's back. They might see it, but it doesn't register as anything important to consider.

Wisdom comes from challenging those embedded premises, those grooves scratched into your brain by your programming (and that includes programming from mainstream media), not from trying to play gotcha with the world by filtering everything through them.

There is actual reality and there is perceived reality. If one of the standards of the opening post was to start with reality as it is, then reality needs to be looked at as it is. Not as the unconscious has been programmed to perceive it.

It's hard as hell to step outside the unconscious grooves in your head and try to identify something correctly according to a chosen rational process instead of the cybernetic system programmed by the good-citizen-making machine all kids are forced to endure.

God knows I had to undo a huge amount of that stuff in my own education (I still struggle with it) and I come from a time when most students came out of public schools knowing how to read and write. So it wasn't nearly as bad as now. But it was awful.

Constant drip drip drip of Pledge of Allegiance, the Star Spangled Banner at all sports functions, life sliced and diced by the bell, a uniform hierarchy of power that looked like the way life is and always will be, peer pressure galore, pre-approved (and only pre-approved) ways of rebelling and actually using first-hand observation, hell, I could go on and on. And to add insult to injury, there was all that yawp. Gobs and gobs of yawp. You had to listen to hours of yawp each day. You had to take notes on yawp. You had to do homework on yawp. You got tested on yawp. You got punished when you vomited the yawp instead of digesting it.

Goddam it! And goddam John Dewey!

Er...

Well, that was interesting.

But I feel better. :smile:

Let's just say I have some serious differences with the premises underlying this discussion.

Michael

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