From the May 2003 Idaho Observer:
Fundamental Principles of Government
We all have our heros. I have mine. One of them happens to be a man who has dedicated the last 40 years of his life to making the world a better place by championing the rights of ordinary people. An engineer by trade, Bill Denman of Sagle has sat on school boards and budget committees and has drafted bills and lobbied legislatures for the passage of laws that protect the rights and preserve the dignity of citizens. He has also been a student of economics and the history of the relationship between people and governments. The Fundamental Principles of Good Government provides the foundation of logic upon which people can grow to understand and appreciate the concepts of responsible citizenship and the limited role government should play in their daily lives. ~(DWH)
By Bill Denman
Human beings are inclined to associate together for a common good such as protection and the exchange of products. However, failure to understand the interrelationships between the right to life, property and government has resulted in the destruction of the previous twenty civilizations . ours is headed in the same direction, for the same reason. Thus the purpose of this article is to explore these interrelationships starting with the simple fact that life exists and that this gives validity to the Fundamental Principles which this article examines in considerable detail.
Life forms the basis for all human rights. Therefore, our first task is to examine the relationship between the right to life and other rights. Much has been written about the right to life (for example, see John Locke's Second Treatise on Government) and nothing really new will be added in this article. Unfortunately the right to life concept seems to have degenerated into little more than a cliche to which we pay lip service. Today's voting records show conclusively that the significance of this right is not understood. The attitude seems to be that it's just a nice sounding phrase that we shouldn't let interfere with our political bias.
Every peaceful individual has a right to life. In other words, no individual has the right to take, or threaten to take, the life of another individual. Since human beings do not create life, or other human beings, there is no authority for one human to dictatorially control the peaceful actions of another.
It's true that we beget human beings (as the Bible correctly says) but we do not create them by dipping our hands into the clay, forming a manikin, and breathing life into it. Human beings do not create, we simply innovate with things that God has already created for us.
The perpetuation of life requires a continuous source of energy for support. Therefore the right to life implies the right to peacefully obtain and control the energy necessary to sustain it.
But this energy comes from property (food and the land necessary to raise it). For the purposes of this presentation we are considering only sources of energy over which human beings exercise some degree of control and are ignoring energy from the sun, air, etc. over which we have no control.
The right to life implies the right to property. Life can not be sustained without property: Food, clothing, shelter. Of course food is the source of energy that sustains life -- without it we die.
It's true that others can provide the necessities for us but this raises a serious problem: Where do these others get the right to the property they provide for us? Do some have a right to property that others don't have? If so what is the source of that right? Since life can not be sustained without property, those who claim a superior right to property are implying that they have a superior right to life. Can anyone explain how the right to life of special individuals became superior to that of their fellow men and what the source of that superiority is? But the right to property is meaningless without the right to liberty.
We must have liberty to obtain the property necessary to sustain life -- even if it's only the liberty to pick an apple off the tree. If a man is tied to a tree, and left there for approximately three days, he will have been deprived of liberty, property and life -- in that order. In other words, depriving him of all liberty eventually deprives him of life.
We have not examined the SOURCE of property rights -- we have only established the RIGHT to property, which is simply a means of distributing natural resources among the inhabitants of this planet.
In an atmosphere of freedom and no limitations on peaceful, non-fraudulent actions, the allocation of natural resources is determined by the relative efficiency with which the inhabitants serve each other. Those who serve their fellow men best, as determined by their fellow men, will control the most natural resources. Of course this assumes that honesty prevails and that there is no interference by another force (government for example).
The right to life, property and liberty is a social concept which would lose all it's meaning if there was only one individual on earth -- there would be lots of natural resources and liberty but no property and no need whatsoever for the concept of rights.
When we talk about rights, it's always with regard to other people even though this is very seldom mentioned in discussions about rights.
SOURCE OF PROPERTY
The difference between natural resources and property must be kept clearly in mind when determining property rights.
Property is defined in Webster's Dictionary as: the right to possess, use, and dispose of something; ownership: as, property in land.
Property is the result of applying human energy to natural resources. If there was only one man on earth there would be lots of natural resources but no property; he could apply his energy to any of the resources without restriction. Property is a social concept implying that there is a restriction on the use of natural resources -- one individual can not use the property of another without the other's permission.
The basis for this restriction on the use of natural resources is human energy. Economists have reduced the relationship between natural resources and human energy to a simple equation:
MMW = NR + HE x T - COG
(Man's Material Welfare = Natural Resources plus Human Energy multiplied times Tools minus the Cost Of Government).
In other words, the use of tools simply improves the efficiency of applying human energy to natural resources, but it should be remembered that tools are the result of applying human energy to natural resources and of deferred consumption (saving).
The energy of a human being belongs uniquely and exclusively to the individual and there is no basis for anyone (or group) to control the peaceful activities of other human beings. Human energy, and thus the property that results from its application, does not belong to society, or government, or neighbors, or etc.,etc. The peaceful application of something that belongs exclusively to a human being -- human energy -- to natural resources, creates property which also belongs exclusively to the individual. This is not a new idea; in paragraph 26 of his Second Treatise on Government (1690), John Locke said:
The labour of his body and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state Nature placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it that excludes the common right of other men. For this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to ... (Emphasis Added)
From this we arrive at the inescapable conclusion that NATURAL RESOURCES DO NOT BELONG TO EVERYONE. In 1768 Samuel Adams expressed a similar idea:
It is an essential, unalterable right in nature...ever held sacred and irrevocable by the subjects within the realm, that what a man has honestly acquired is absolutely his own, which he may freely give, but cannot be taken from him without his consent.
Thus we see that the application of human energy to natural resources is the SOURCE of the right spoken of in Webster's definition. Those who disagree will have the onus of proving that the energy of some human beings is superior to others. It's true that some individuals use their human energy more efficiently than others and thus produce, and own, more property.
Unfortunately, there are some property owners who become greedy and succeed in using the agency of force and compulsion (government) to interfere with the property rights of others. This will be discussed in a future article on monopolies.
From the foregoing, we saw that property is simply a means of distributing natural resources to individuals according to their success in serving their fellow men.
Under the absurd concept that natural resources belong to everyone nothing would belong to anyone because all material possessions are made from natural resources and there would be no such thing as property.
Homes, automobiles, TV's, refrigerators, etc., etc, are all made from natural resources and if natural resources belong to everyone, all homes, automobiles, etc. would belong to everyone and nothing would be produced.
If every bum, who produces nothing, has a claim to the homes of those who have, and could evict the rightful owner without challenge, nobody would bother to produce anything.
Under the natural resources belong to everyone cliche everyone would have a right to confiscate everything without producing anything. Thus the investment of human energy in converting natural resources to useable products would be wasted energy -- those who invested their energy would have no more claim to the product of their efforts than those who didn't. Under these circumstances nothing but total social war would exist.
The Planning and Zoning concept is based on this false idea that natural resources belong to everyone and its application is discouraging real community improvement that otherwise would take place.
We will examine the property rights concept in a little more depth by analyzing a simple example of a farmer engaged in raising hay.
The farmer plants alfalfa seeds but they will not grow without the proper sunlight, moisture, natural fertility of the soil and oxygen from the air. The farmer planted the seeds but God provided the sunshine, moisture, soil, fertility and oxygen.
Obviously the farmer did not cause the hay to grow; it grew because of the sunshine, moisture, soil, fertility and oxygen. What justification does the farmer have for claiming ownership of the hay since God did most of the work?
To raise the hay, the farmer had to contribute something that is exclusively his -- human energy. The farmer plowed the ground, planted the seed, harvested the hay and transported it to market. In other words, the farmer is the only human that has any energy invested in raising the hay -- that makes it exclusively his.
A similar analysis can be made of all other peacefully acquired property. Furthermore, the farmer's claim to natural resources is transferrable. If he exchanges hay for forest land, the energy he invested in rasing hay is now represented by trees and he can cut them down, burn them up, or do whatever he wishes with his trees because they now represent something that is exclusively his -- human energy.
To claim otherwise is to imply that others have a right to control his energy which is obviously not true.
Everyone receives the gifts of God free of charge. It's impossible to charge for God's contribution to the creation of property (in this example, the hay). Here's why:
It's impossible for the farmer to calculate a price for the natural resources that actually contribute to the growth of hay. He has no way of knowing how many lumens of light contributed to the growth of an acre of hay and how many were reflected back into the atmosphere or absorbed into the ground in an unproductive way. Even if he could measure and calculate this, he would not have the foggiest idea of how to assign a monetary value to it (how many dollars per lumen?).
He has no way of knowing how many inches of rain per acre contributed to hay growth and how many were absorbed into the ground, converted into gases (alfalfa has a distinctive odor), ran off the field into the river, evaporated into the atmosphere, etc., etc.
Even if he could miraculously solve this measurement and calculation problem, he would not know what monetary value to assign (dollars per inch of rain).
The same dilemma would exist for all other natural resources that contributed to hay growth. How does the farmer arrive at a price for his hay? He calculates his costs: machinery depreciation, seeds, fuel and lubrication costs, etc., etc, and then adds an amount, called profit, to compensate him for the energy he invested.
It's also noteworthy that the machinery, seeds, fuel, and all other factors used in raising the hay, simply represent the application of human energy to natural resources.
Furthermore, in a free market economy, the price he receives is not determined by him, it's determined by his potential customers and his competitors. If the price is too high, the hay will not sell. It's vitally important to keep in mind that the price paid for any product (assuming no theft or fraud) is simply compensation for the investment of human energy.
We do not pay one penny for the natural resources in the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the homes we live in, etc., etc.
Thus we see that natural resources are circulated free of charge to all participants in the exchange process. The Lord has designed a wonderful system for the distribution of his gifts -- it's too bad that we humans constantly try to scuttle His system and, in the process, only succeed in destroying our own future.
While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill - little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago. ~John Adams (July 9, 1813)
It's noteworthy that Adams' remark was made approximately 23 years after the United States Constitution was ratified and the new government had began operation.
It was true then (188 years ago) and it's still true today.
The ink was hardly dry on the Constitution before violations began. The establishment of Hamilton's First U.S. Bank in 1791 was a serious violation of the Constitution and Thomas Jefferson opposed it on that basis -- he was absolutely right.
In addition to violating the Constitution, the First Bank was a violation of the fundamental principles of government as we shall see in later articles on money and banking.
The Constitution itself has a few serious flaws such as the general welfare clause and the establishment of the department of commerce.
The general welfare clause is a particularly serious error because it has been used as the excuse for the socialism that's so popular today. Even so, the U. S. Constitution is the best document ever written for establishing a limited government and it would be an immense blessing if we could return to it.
Previously we examined the relationship between three fundamental rights: The right to life, property and liberty. We saw that these are inseparable rights. This led us to the inescapable conclusion that the exclusive right to property results when an individual applies human energy to natural resources. From these basic principles we saw that NATURAL RESOURCES DO NOT BELONG TO EVERYONE.
Next, we turn our attention on the relationship between these rights and government. The French Political Economist Frederic Bastiat clearly stated this relationship in his essay The Law:
Life, faculties, production -- in other words, individuality, liberty, property -- this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that cause men to make laws in the first place. (UNDERLINING ADDED)
The right to life infers the right to protect life. The right to life would be meaningless without the right to protect it. Since the protection of life is a right every peaceful individual has, we can delegate this right individually and collectively to a common protection agency which we call government. Since the rights of all individuals are limited to the protection of life, property and liberty, this places a natural limit on government's actions since it can not logically have rights which people cannot delegate to it.
After men began associating in groups, it became evident that some form of protection for the group would be advantageous. Since every peaceful individual has the right to life, property and liberty, the group can collectively hire a protection agency (government) to protect those rights.
Unfortunately, it was not long after men formed government that it began violating the rights of the people instead of protecting them. For centuries government did pretty much as it pleased because it was a superior force.
Religion was often used to justify the tyrannical acts of government officials. In the early days of Greece, rulers often claimed that their actions were guided by the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi.
The Greeks experimented with democracy in an effort to limit tyranny, only to learn that tyranny of the majority can be as bad, or worse, than that of a dictator. A dictator can be assassinated or deposed, but how do you assassinate or depose a majority in possession of tyrannical power?
The result of the Greek experiment with democracy was one of the worst civil wars in recorded history in which they slaughtered each other so extensively that they could not live together in the cities. Some of the cities became so depopulated that grass grew in the streets and cattle came there to graze.
This failure to limit the power of government, regardless of it's form, stems from three basic causes:
(1) Failure by the normally peaceful individuals in society to understand the limits which the right to life, property and liberty impose on the methods of acquiring property. In other words, failure to understand that plunder (legal or illegal), is a self destructive way of gaining property.
(2) Barbarians exist in every society and they care nothing about rights; their whole mode of operation is based on force and plunder.
In the past, barbarians openly used violence to plunder the productive members of society and were easily recognized. With the invention of gun powder and widespread ownership of guns, physical size and strength were no longer an advantage and direct plunder became dangerous.
However, barbarians are clever and changed their tactics but the objective (plunder) is still the same. In today's society, barbarians are difficult to recognize because they use sophisticated methods to accomplish their plunder. Psychology is used to twist the minds of their victims so they can not distinguish between charity and plunder, legality and morality, right and wrong, freedom and slavery, real money and worthless paper.
(3) The third failure is related to the first two and is perhaps the most dangerous of the three: The failure to understand the proper function of government and the fact that its primary purpose is to protect the rights of the minority.
Since the majority is a superior force, it doesn't need protecting. Because of this failure, barbarians have succeeded in gaining control of government and are using it to legally plunder the productive members of society, which is exactly opposite to the true purpose of government.
Men can not delegate to government rights which they do not have. It's true that the majority can plunder the minority because they are a superior force (assuming a true majority). This does not change the fact that they do not have the right to do so.
This implies that individuals have rights that are above and beyond the whims and passions of the majority vote or tyrannical laws. Indeed they do; peaceful individuals have rights that no man or government has a right to violate -- life, property and liberty.
Any act that would be wrong for individuals is automatically wrong for government. Might does not make right whether the might is a conquering army, a 51 percent majority, or a tyrannical government.
Peaceful individuals have the right to defend themselves using whatever means necessary, including guns or any other weapons. Since individuals have the right to use guns for self defense, they can delegate that right to a common protection agency called government.
Thus, police, sheriffs and military personnel carry guns -- if they are expected of perform their job they must have the necessary tools. It's vitally important to recognize that people do not give up their right to self defense simply because they hire a protection agency -- government. This is true because hiring a protection agency does not eliminate or reduce the right to life, property and liberty. Failure to understand this has undoubtedly led to more bloodshed than any other single factor.
As government evolved from the primitive tribal council into more complex and extensive forms, the practice of writing laws to authorize, and/or limit, the actions of government evolved.
Since the suppression of plunder is the primary function of government, and the tools necessary to accomplish that task are tools of violence: guns, clubs, tanks, rockets, etc., laws simply authorize or limit the use of these tools.
This leads directly to the conclusion that every law is an implied threat of violence since it authorizes the use of the tools of violence.
There is no such thing as a voluntary law. In Federalist Paper #15, Alexander Hamilton stated the relationship between the law and enforcement very clearly:
Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty for disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation. This penalty, whatever it may be, can only be inflicted in two ways: by the agency of the courts and ministers of justice (Sheriff), or by military force ... It is evident that there is no process of a court by which the observance of the laws can in the last resort be enforced. Sentences may be denounced against them for violations of their duty; but these sentences can only be carried into execution by the sword. (Parenthetic words & underlining added)
Furthermore, there are three, and only three, reasons for passing any law:
1. To compel people to do something they do not wish to do. If they wanted to commit the required action, they would already be doing it and there would be no need for the law.
2. To prevent people from doing something they wish to do. If they did not wish to commit the prohibited act they would not be doing it and there would be no need for the law, and;
3. Put the sheriff's pistol (threat of violence) behind the law. Obviously, the first two reasons would be mere dreaming by legislators without the third.
The use of laws to discourage the antisocial behavior of thieves and murderers is certainly appropriate since peaceful individuals have the right to protect themselves against such behavior. This brings us to the question, what is the proper use of threats of violence (laws)?
Should laws be used for the sole purpose of discouraging the anti-social behavior of murders and thieves and for protection from foreign invaders, or should it also used to accomplish desirable social goals?
In order to answer this question, we must recognize the difference between passive government and active government.
In a passive government, laws are restricted to protecting the right to life, property and liberty and no action is taken unless a violation of these rights occur. In other words, the criminal acts and the government reacts.
In an active government, laws are passed to mandate, or direct, the behavior of peaceful individuals; planning and zoning is one example of active government.
Justice prevails under a passive government because force is used only after a violation of rights has occurred, it can not be otherwise and still maintain justice.
If government uses force based on suspicion (before a violation has occurred) it plunders peaceful people and is thus acting outside it's authority and perpetrating the very evils it's supposed to protect people from.
This is exactly what an active government does. For example: laws that authorize the arrest of thieves perform the same function that every individual has a right to perform -- protect property.
This action by government is reactive; the thief is not arrested until after the theft has occurred, otherwise there would be no justification for the arrest.
Planning & Zoning laws are coercive because they authorize the use of force against peaceful people who have not violated anyone else's rights. In other words, they initiate actions against property rights instead of protecting them.
Dictatorial bureaucratic edicts are issued (in the form of ordinances) that violate people's property rights and anyone who does not conform is confronted by the same police powers that were intended to protect property from thieves.
As Frederic Bastiat said in the introduction to his essay The Law:
The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is suppose to punish!
Samuel Adams was quoted above as saying: ... what man has honestly acquired is absolutely his own, which he may freely give, but can not be taken from him without his consent.
Was he right, or wrong? If he was right, there is a serious problem when taxes are used to support government. Earlier we saw that the right to property comes from the right to life. If every peaceful man has an unconditional right to life, he has an unconditional right to property which is necessary to sustain that life. Thus we see that Adams was absolutely right.
But laws are passed to authorize the collection of taxes and all laws are implied threats of violence -- there is no such thing as a voluntary law.
Since taxes (money) represents personal property, government uses laws (threats of violence) to take property from it's rightful owner ... without his consent.
But where do government officials get the right to use threats of violence against peaceful people? Since people do not have such a right, individually or collectively, they can not delegate it to government.
What about the majority vote, isn't that the source of government's authority to pass laws? There's nothing wrong with using the majority vote to elect City Councilmen, County Commissioners, State or Federal Legislators, etc., since that is simply a mechanical process for deciding who will do the best job of protecting (not violating) everyone's rights.
The problem arises when these officials begin using the majority vote among themselves to do what no individual has a right to do.
Since individually, and collectively, we have the right to defend our life, property and liberty, we can delegate that right to a common protection agency called government. But no individual has the right to use threats of violence against his peaceful neighbor to compel him to support a particular protection scheme.
So here's the dilemma: How can we collectively obtain protection without violating our neighbor's right to property. In other words, HOW DO WE SUPPORT GOVERNMENT? The answer is very simple to state and very difficult to accomplish. Before we analyze the answer, let's examine the behavior of a small group of farmers living in a primitive society.
Each farmer produces a different product and exchanges it with others. Unfortunately, there's a group of marauding barbarians that periodically raid their farms and confiscate property.
Finally the farmers have a meeting and decide to hire one member of the group to spend full time protecting them. Each farmer agrees to contribute products to provide for the protector's necessities.
Since each farmer can now devote full time to producing products, instead of wasting part of it protecting himself, the burden of supporting the protector will be more than offset by the increase in productivity. Thus everyone will have a higher standard of living and the dangers involved in individual protection have been reduced.
Notice that this protective scheme is based on a voluntary agreement because each member of the society recognizes the value of protection. However, a farmer living on an island in the middle of Lake Pend Oreille refuses to contribute to this protection scheme because he can see the barbarians in their boat long before they arrive and can be prepared.
The other members of the protective scheme feel this is unfair and decide they will force the islander to contribute to the protection scheme. Notice how barbarism has spread. The islander not only has to contend with the original barbarians but also with the other members of society that are now committing the same acts in the name of protection.
What's the root of the problem in this scenario? Barbarism! If there were no barbarians there would be no need to waste time and energy on protection.
Also notice how the creation of a protection agency requiring the support of the productive members of society has resulted in the spread of barbarism. People violate their neighbors' rights in the name of protection.
There have always been barbarians and probably always will be. The challenge is to reduce the number of barbarians to a level that will allow the productive members of society to survive.
This means greater numbers must become CIVILIZED so that VOLUNTARY SUPPORT of government would be possible.
If approximately 20 percent of today's society was civilized enough to voluntarily support government, we would have a government that could not get out of control because it would be so small, compared to the population, that it would be tremendously outnumbered.
James Madison examined a very similar issue in Federalist Paper 46 when trying to placate concerns about federal domination of the states, therefore the analysis won't be repeated here.
Sure, the other 80 percent would get a free ride but that frequently happens in a free market because when enough people want a particular service, they are willing to pay to get what they want regardless of the fact that others may be getting a free ride.
Furthermore, it's very likely that the 20 percent would not have to pay nearly as much to voluntarily support government as they do at present because an estimated 40 percent, or less, of the people is supporting today's bloated government.
Unfortunately, we are a long way from being civilized enough to support government voluntarily. To illustrate present day thinking on this issue it is only necessary to conduct a miniature survey.
Ask practically anyone if they think voluntary financial support for government would work? Most likely the response will be Are you crazy! Nobody would ever voluntarily give money to support government.
The inference of this statement is: Are you crazy enough to believe that we can live peacefully together? We have to use threats of violence (tax laws) against peaceful people to force them to protect themselves.
In other words, we have to violate people's rights in order to protect their rights. Sound absurd? It absolutely is, but try to prove it isn't true!
Wanting to use threats of violence against peaceful people is the attitude of barbarians. Thus, in spite of outward appearances, we are still not civilized enough to live peacefully together.
To see the full impact of this barbaric attitude, all that's necessary is to visit the library and look at the Federal Register or any set of State Code books.
Laws (threats of violence) intervene in practically every aspect of our peaceful activities and the vast majority of we the people see nothing wrong with it; all we have to do is look at election results to confirm this.
Even if government adhered strictly to the United States Constitution (wouldn't that be wonderful), the forceful collection of money to support it would still bear the mark of barbarism. Is it any mystery why governments always get out of control and eventually destroy the source of their own sustenance?
Ideas are what shape men's destiny. Barbaric ideas eventually lead to barbaric actions. We must change our attitude about social relations and then begin to practice what we preach.
We have come a long way since the days of Greece and Rome -- Christians are no longer fed to the Lions, we are just ridiculed. But Christians need to remember that Christ said Love thy neighbor, he did not say Force thy neighbor.
We still have a long way to go in order for the majority to become civilized but we are making progress -- very, very slowly. Somehow we must convince our fellow men that producing is better than using the agency of force and compulsion -- government -- to plunder each other. If we can get our fellow citizens to see that the misuse of government is destroying everyone's future, including that of government officials, perhaps we can change a few minds.
We have no choice, we must try.
Notice that how to support government implies the existence of a government -- not anarchy. Anarchy would not work in a society where barbaric attitudes dominate the thinking of a vast number of people. When government has the power to support itself by violating the people's right to property (money), can they be restrained from destroying their source of support?
In his book Eat the Rich, P.J. O'Rourke raised a very important question: Can men who have guns restrain themselves from interfering in the affairs of men who have nothing but checkbooks?
No government (including our own) ever has. The answer to this problem is to increase the number of civilized people in society. However, there will always be need for a protection agency (government) because we will never have 100 percent of the people civilized, especially when foreigners are considered.
Bill Denman recently accepted the position of chairman of the Constitution Party for the state of Idaho. He is planning to organize the five northern counties into precincts and continue southward organizing and educating Idahoans as to the merits of limited government and the importance of a responsible citizenry.
Webservant's note: Check back for an updated version of this page with formatting and emphasis.
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