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Libertarianism

Libertarianism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

From the customs of liberal society and the writings of John Locke (16321704), David Hume (17111776), Adam Smith (17231790), and myriad others, there emerged an ideological sensibility dubious of government activism, leery of collectivist urges, and resistant of nationalistic sentiments. It learned to accept commercial society and cosmopolitanism, and even celebrate them. It maintains a presumption of individual liberty. The name of this sensibility has varied in time and place, but in the United States since the 1970s the name has been libertarianism.

The signal feature of libertarianism is the distinction between voluntary and coercive action. Coercion is the aggressive invasion (including the threat of invasion) of ones property or freedom of consent (or contract). Libertarians maintain a logic of ownership whereby owners have a claim to the control and use of their property, a claim good against the world. The logic is exhibited throughout centuries of liberal society in the normal, legitimate goings-on of private parties. It emerges as intuitive and natural. Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations (1776) that the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord (bk. 4, chap. 9). As for the determination of who owns what, there are universal norms, beginning with ownership in ones own person, and extending to property acquired within the family and in voluntary interaction with others (such as trade, production, and gift relations). Libertarians admit the holes and gray areas, but argue that the distinctions nonetheless hold much water, and that rival ideologies are also plagued by holes and gray areas, even more so.

Libertarians reject any social contract device as a way to bring political relations into consent. They reject the idea that, whether by virtue of democracy or simply by maintaining residence within the polity, one voluntarily agrees to the government laws one lives under. Government is recognized as a special kind of organization, and might be said to enjoy a special kind of legitimacy, but it does not get a special dispensation on coercion. In the eyes of the libertarian, everything the government does that would be deemed coercive and criminal if done by any other party in society is still coercive. For example, imagine that a neighbor decided to impose a minimum-wage law on you. Since most government action, including taxation, is of that nature, libertarians see government as a unique kind of organization engaged in wholesale coercion, and coercion is the treading on liberty. This semantic, libertarians say, was central in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century custom and social thought, for example in Adam Smiths treatment of natural liberty and through the American founders, the abolitionists, John Stuart Mill (18061873), Herbert Spencer (18201903), and William Graham Sumner (18401910). (Indeed, libertarians will argue that the vocabulary of modern liberalism is in many respects a systematic undermining of the older vocabulary.)

To just about anyone, coercion has a negative connotation. And, indeed, libertarians generally oppose government action. That disposition holds not only against economic intervention, but extends to coercive egalitarianism (the welfare state), restrictions on personal lifestyle (such as drug prohibition), and extensive government ownership of resources. Libertarians also tend to oppose military action abroad, though some libertarians may favor it when they believe that it bids fair to reduce coercion on the whole (that is, across the globe).

Within libertarian thought, there has been much debate over whether the principle of liberty is absolute (that is, 100 percent), or, as Adam Smith held, simply a presumption (say, 90 percent). Most classical liberals regarded it as a presumption, as have the transitional figures Ludwig von Mises (18811973) and Friedrich Hayek (18991992), both originally from Austria, and the famous American economist Milton Friedman. In judging where coercive government policy should be accepted or even deemed desirable, the maxim libertarians appeal to broad sensibilities about consequences, including moral and cultural consequences, of alternative policy arrangements. They do not attempt to set out any complete or definitive characterization of such sensibilities, any algorithm of desirability, and they declare that it is unreasonable to demand that they do so, especially since the same demand is not made of rival ideologies.

In justifying the presumption of liberty, most libertarians, especially economists, emphasize the practical argumentsliberty works better than government interventionbut others have maintained that liberty has an ethical authority established quite separately from any consideration of practical results.

The emergence of libertarianism, as such, comes about from the retreat of classical liberalism (particularly after 1900) and, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States, the concurrent change of the popular meaning of liberalism, such that those who kept up cosmopolitan, laissez-faire, antistatist views no longer had a name.

Mises, Hayek, and Friedman clung to the old term liberalism. The term libertarian was used occasionally, but was really seized by the critical figure of modern libertarianism, Murray N. Rothbard (19261995). Beginning in the 1960s, Rothbard reasserted the old definition of liberty and infused libertarianism with a paradigmatic content holding that institutionalized coercion is always wrong and government action always damaging to social utility. Libertarianism implied anarchism. A prodigious polymath and challenging, charismatic personality, Rothbard erected an integrated doctrine for ethics, politics, and economics.

Anarcho hyphenates (such as anarcho-capitalism ) were discussed also by other libertarian theoreticians, notably favorably by David Friedman and critically by Robert Nozick (19382002). Rothbard, David Friedman, and others built on the notion that private ownership and voluntary exchange are intuitive and focal, and hence lend themselves to a kind of spontaneous adoption by decentralized social institutions. They speculated on how there could be a free market in the enforcement of property rights, like private security companies today. Later research on voluntary reputational practices and institutions, exemplified, for example, by credit reporting agencies, would lend support to the view that, in a world where practically all property is privately owned, government police would not be necessary to resolving disputes and maintaining internal order. As for defense from external aggression, Rothbard tended to argue that no foreign government would have plausible cause or the practical means to conquer an anarcho-libertarian society, while David Friedman admitted uncertainties. The anarcho speculations, as well as Rothbards extreme claims for liberty, arguably diverted libertarians from the task of developing a persuasive, relevant ideology, and hindered the penetration of libertarian thinking into mainstream discourse.

Many of the same people in the United States who were fashioning modern libertarianism were also busy fashioning the so-called Austrian school of economics, named for the influence of the Austrians Mises and Hayek (who in 1974 was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics). Austrian economics is solidly pro-laissez-faire, but there has always been a tension between two types of thought. One, exemplified by Mises and Rothbard, champions human reason as an engine of discovery of scientific truth and purports to deduce a priori the superiority of voluntary arrangements. The other, inspired by Smith and exemplified by Hayek, criticizes the pretense of knowledge. It views economic processes as a skein of local practices and peculiarities, with their own dialectics of change and correction, and hence largely unknowable to regulators or even the most assiduous intellectuals. Followers of Mises and Rothbard claim a scientific foundation for laissez-faire economics; followers of Smith and Hayek criticize the scientific claims of interventionist economics. All Austrian economists are at least broadly libertarian in their policy views, but many libertarians are mainstream in economic method; Milton Friedman and David Friedman, for example, though admiring of Hayek, would be sharply critical of Austrian economics, particularly the Mises-Rothbard version. In fact, Hayek surely had grave misgivings about that as well, and never favored the fashioning of a separate Austrian school of economics.

Another important figure in the resurgence of antistatist ideas was the novelist and pop-philosopher Ayn Rand (19051982). Like Rothbard a messianic personality, though with much less learning and scholarship, Rand too set forth a highly integrated belief system, objectivism. However, Rand strongly favored governments function as the keeper of the peace, and, in sharp contrast to Rothbard, an anticommunist foreign policy. She detested libertarianism, and Rothbard attacked her movement as a cult.

Rothbards paradigm was so clear and consistent that even the libertarians who soundly rejected his extreme claims for liberty nonetheless found themselves working out their ideas in relation to principles like those he propounded. Nowadays, there remain loyal Rothbardians, but most libertarians think more in the fashion of Smith, Hayek, and Friedman. They insist that government intervention, including taxation, is coercive, but they take the anticoercion principle to be, not a natural axiom, but a natural maxim. They see government as having at least one important and necessary functionthe undoing of other governmental functions. (In contrast, Rothbards vision of libertarian social transformation held that after long years of ideological stirrings, there would come the inevitable internal political crisis, yielding to a widespread awakening and some kind of spontaneous, bottom-up institutional house-cleaning.)

Libertarianism joins the mainstream conversation as a political persuasion anchored in the status quo, not some ideal libertarian society, and yet opposed to the status quo, favoring freer arrangements pretty much across the board. It is perhaps best represented by public-policy institutes, such as the Cato Institute and the Independent Institute, that develop policy argumentation on an issue-by-issue basis. As for the academic world, the most notable libertarian strongholds are the economics department and law school at George Mason University.

Libertarianism is now a broad tent, rooted in policy issues and insistent on the Locke-Smith-Spencer-Rothbard definition of liberty. Within the tent, only a small portion would defend anarchism, but all remain radical in the sense that they insist that government intervention is coercive, and on most issues they entertain and quite likely favor abolishing the government agency or interventions in question.

There has also existed since the 1970s in the United States a Libertarian Party. However, libertarians are usually not much interested in it, chiefly because they feel that within the American system third parties are impossible or even damaging to their own cause.

SEE ALSO Freedom; Friedman, Milton; Hayek, Friedrich August; Mises, Ludwig Edler von; Philosophy, Political

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Boaz, David. 1997. Libertarianism: A Primer. New York: Free Press.

Hayek, Friedrich. 1960. The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Klein, Daniel B. 2004. Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard. Reason Papers: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Normative Studies 27: 743. http://www.reasonpapers.com/pdf/27/rp_27_1.pdf.

Rothbard, Murray. 1978. For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto. Rev. ed. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Smith, Adam. [1776] 1904. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. 5th ed. Ed. Edwin Cannan. London: Methuen. http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html.

Daniel B. Klein

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Libertarian Party

LIBERTARIAN PARTY

The Libertarian party was founded in Colorado in 1971 and held its first convention in Denver in 1972. In 1972 it fielded John Hospers for president and Theodora Nathan for vice president in the U.S. general election. It appeared on two state ballots, receiving a total of 2,648 votes in Colorado and Washington. In the 1976 elections, the party's 176 candidates garnered 1.2 million votes across the United States.

The Libertarian party believes that people have certain natural, individual rights and that deprivation of those rights is unjust. Two basic rights—the right to personal autonomy and the right to utilize previously unused resources—form the foundation of the party's ideals.

The Libertarian party views government as both the cause and the effect of societal ills. Government causes crime and prejudice because excessive laws divide society, rob people of their independence, and frustrate initiative and creativity. It then attempts to eradicate crime and prejudice by exercising more control over individual rights.

The Libertarian party promotes the abolition of compulsory military service, government control of television and other media, laws regarding sexual activity between consenting adults, laws against the use of mood-altering substances, and government control of migration and immigration. Under its leadership farming quotas and subsidies would be eliminated, there would be no mandatory schooling and no minimum wage, and defense spending would be drastically reduced. According to the party, the form of government it promotes would be less expensive than the current system of federal, state, and local governance.

The Libertarian party has achieved a small measure of electoral success. In 1980 Ed Clark received over 1 million votes in his bid for the presidency. Having failed to win the popular vote in any state, however, Clark received no electoral votes. Andre Marrou garnered slightly less support as the party's presidential candidate in 1984, 1988, and 1992. In 1992 Marrou and his running mate Nancy Lord received approximately 291,000 votes. Although the party has yet to be a factor in national politics, it has had some success locally. In 1994 it had state representatives in New Hampshire and Alaska, mayors in California, and over 30 city council members in cities across the country.

In 1996 the party held its national convention in Washington, D.C., over the Fourth of July holiday. At the convention it nominated economist and author Harry Browne as its presidential candidate. In his acceptance speech, Browne presented a number of controversial ideas, including making a sizable reduction in the federal government, abolishing the federal income tax, abolishing federal drug and seizure laws, and increasing recognition of individual rights. Browne and running mate Jo Jorgensen appeared on the election ballot in all 50 states, along with approximately 1,000 Libertarian party candidates for various public offices. Browne and Jorgensen won 485,759 votes, 0.5 percent of the national vote.

Browne ran again for president in 2000, this time with Art Oliver as a running mate. Although the Libertarian party was on the ballot in all 50 states, the Browne ticket received only 382,982 votes, over 100,000 fewer than in the 1996 election. During the 2000 elections the party also entered candidates for more than half of the seats in Congress up for election. In the elections for the U.S. House of Representatives, Libertarian party candidates received a total of 1.7 million votes, the first time in history a third party received more than a million votes for the House.

further readings

Bergland, David. 2000. Libertarianism in One Lesson. Huntington Beach, Calif.: Orpheus Publications.

Herrnson, Paul S., and John C. Green, eds. 1997. Multiparty Politics in America. Lanham, N.C.: Rowman & Littlefield.

Libertarian National Committee. Libertarian party promotional flyers. Washington, D.C.: Libertarian National Committee.

Libertarian Party. Available online at <www.lp.org> (accessed July 28, 2003).

cross-references

Independent Parties.

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Libertarianism

LIBERTARIANISM

A political philosophy that advocates free will, individual rights, and voluntary cooperation.

The core doctrine of libertarianism begins with the recognition that people have certain natural rights and that deprivation of these rights is immoral. Among these natural rights are the right to personal autonomy and property rights, and the right to the utilization of previously unused resources. These two basic assumptions form the foundation of all libertarian ideals.

Libertarianism can be traced back to ancient China, where philosopher Lao-tzu advocated the recognition of individual liberties. The modern libertarian theory emerged in the sixteenth century through the writings of Etienne de La Boetie (1530–1563), an eminent French theorist. In the seventeenth century, john locke and a group of British reformers known as the Levellers fashioned the classical basis for libertarianism with well-received philosophies on human nature and economics. Since the days of Locke, libertarianism has attracted pacifists, utopianists, utilitarianists, anarchists, and fascists. This wide array of support demonstrates the accessibility and elasticity of the libertarian promotion of natural rights.

Essential to the notion of natural rights is respect for the natural rights of others. Without a dignified population, voluntary cooperation is impossible. According to the libertarian, the means to achieving a dignified population and voluntary cooperation is inextricably tied to the promotion of natural rights.

Libertarianism holds that people lose their dignity as government gains control of their body and their life. The abdication of natural rights to government prevents people from living in their own way and working and producing at their own pace. The result is a decrease in self-reliance and independence, which results in a decrease in personal dignity, which in turn depresses society and necessitates more government interference.

Thus, the libertarian views government as both the cause and the effect of societal ills. Government is the cause of crime and prejudice because it robs people of their independence and frustrates initiative and creativity. Then, having created the sources of crime and prejudice by depriving individuals of their natural rights, government attempts to exorcise the evils with more controls over natural rights.

Libertarians believe that government should be limited to the defense of its citizens. Actions such as murder, rape, robbery, theft, embezzlement, fraud, arson, kidnapping, battery, trespass, and pollution violate the rights of others, so government control of these actions is legitimate. Libertarians acknowledge human imperfection and the resulting need for some government deterrence and punishment of violence, nuisance, and harassment. However, government control of human activity should be limited to these functions.

further readings

Boaz, David. 1997. Libertarianism: A Primer. New York: Free Press.

Otsuka, Michael. 2003. Libertarianism Without Inequality. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

cross-references

Anarchism; Independent Parties; Natural Law; Utilitarianism.

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libertarianism

libertarianism An anti-state ideology which takes the principles of liberalism to their logical extreme. Libertarianism is rooted in the writings of the seventeenth-century English political philosopher John Locke, who insisted upon the priority of individual rights to life, liberty, and property, and ‘the elimination of coercive intervention by the state, the foremost violator of liberty’. However, the valuing of individual liberty above all else is also an identifiable strand of conservative thought, and libertarians form part of the conservative radical right in both the United States and Britain. Modern libertarians include the American philosopher Robert Nozick (Anarchy, State and Utopia, 1974)
, who would reduce the role of the state to that of a mere ‘protection agency’, and the economist Friedrich Hayek. The latter maintains that the ideal economy and polity is a ‘catallaxy’–a spontaneous organization resembling the free market–within which interpersonal relationships are modelled on market exchanges; government is reduced to the minimal tasks of maintaining order and providing those public services which cannot spontaneously emerge because of huge initial capital outlays. This allegedly results in a plurality of personal and social values (see for example his ‘Principles of a Liberal Social Order’ in A. Crespigny and and J. Cronin ( eds.) , Ideologies of Politics, 1975)
.

Libertarians advocate the maximization of individual rights, the minimization of government, and a free-market economy. These ideas have found strongest support in the United States, where they mix uneasily with conservatism and neo-liberalism. In his first term (1980–4) President Ronald Reagan stood for a policy that had many libertarian elements, although these were not fully carried out by his administration.

In philosophy, libertarianism describes a theory of human actions opposed to determinism, insisting that conscious human actions are not explicable in simple causal terms. See also JUSTICE, SOCIAL.

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libertarian

lib·er·tar·i·an / ˌlibərˈte(ə)rēən/ • n. 1. an adherent of libertarianism: [as adj.] libertarian philosophy. ∎  a person who advocates civil liberty. 2. Philos. a person who believes in the doctrine of free will.

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libertarian

libertarianantipodean, Crimean, Judaean, Korean •Albion •Gambian, Zambian •lesbian •Arabian, Bessarabian, Fabian, gabion, Sabian, Swabian •amphibian, Libyan, Namibian •Sorbian •Danubian, Nubian •Colombian • Serbian • Nietzschean •Chadian, Trinidadian •Andean, Kandyan •guardian •Acadian, Akkadian, Arcadian, Barbadian, Canadian, circadian, Grenadian, Hadean, Orcadian, Palladian, radian, steradian •Archimedean, comedian, epicedian, median, tragedian •ascidian, Derridean, Dravidian, enchiridion, Euclidean, Floridian, Gideon, Lydian, meridian, Numidian, obsidian, Pisidian, quotidian, viridian •Amerindian, Indian •accordion, Edwardian •Cambodian, collodion, custodian, melodeon, nickelodeon, Odeon •Freudian • Bermudian • Burundian •Burgundian •Falstaffian, Halafian •Christadelphian, Delphian, Philadelphian •nymphean • ruffian • Brobdingnagian •Carolingian • Swedenborgian •logion, Muskogean •Jungian •magian, Pelagian •collegian •callipygian, Cantabrigian, Phrygian, Stygian •Merovingian • philologian • Fujian •Czechoslovakian • Pickwickian •Algonquian • Chomskian •Kentuckian •battalion, galleon, medallion, rapscallion, scallion •Anglian, ganglion •Heraklion •Dalian, Malian, Somalian •Chellean, Machiavellian, Orwellian, Sabellian, Trevelyan, triskelion •Wesleyan •alien, Australian, bacchanalian, Castalian, Deucalion, episcopalian, Hegelian, madrigalian, mammalian, Pygmalion, Salian, saturnalian, sesquipedalian, tatterdemalion, Thessalian, Westphalian •anthelion, Aristotelian, Aurelian, carnelian, chameleon, Karelian, Mendelian, Mephistophelian, Pelion, Sahelian •Abbevillian, Azilian, Brazilian, caecilian, Castilian, Chilean, Churchillian, civilian, cotillion, crocodilian, epyllion, Gillian, Lilian, Maximilian, Pamphylian, pavilion, postilion, Quintilian, reptilian, Sicilian, Tamilian, vaudevillian, vermilion, Virgilian •Aeolian, Anatolian, Eolian, Jolyon, Mongolian, napoleon, simoleon •Acheulian, Boolean, cerulean, Friulian, Julian, Julien •bullion •mullion, scullion, Tertullian •Liverpudlian •Bahamian, Bamian, Damian, Mesopotamian, Samian •anthemion, Bohemian •Endymion, prosimian, Simeon, simian •isthmian • antinomian •Permian, vermian •Oceanian •Albanian, Azanian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lithuanian, Mauritanian, Mediterranean, Panamanian, Pennsylvanian, Pomeranian, Romanian, Ruritanian, Sassanian, subterranean, Tasmanian, Transylvanian, Tripolitanian, Turanian, Ukrainian, Vulcanian •Armenian, Athenian, Fenian, Magdalenian, Mycenaean (US Mycenean), Slovenian, Tyrrhenian •Argentinian, Arminian, Augustinian, Carthaginian, Darwinian, dominion, Guinean, Justinian, Ninian, Palestinian, Sardinian, Virginian •epilimnion, hypolimnion •Bosnian •Bornean, Californian, Capricornian •Aberdonian, Amazonian, Apollonian, Babylonian, Baconian, Bostonian, Caledonian, Catalonian, Chalcedonian, Ciceronian, Devonian, draconian, Estonian, Etonian, gorgonian, Ionian, Johnsonian, Laconian, Macedonian, Miltonian, Newtonian, Oregonian, Oxonian, Patagonian, Plutonian, Tennysonian, Tobagonian, Washingtonian •Cameroonian, communion, Mancunian, Neptunian, Réunion, union •Hibernian, Saturnian •Campion, champion, Grampian, rampion, tampion •thespian • Mississippian • Olympian •Crispian •Scorpian, scorpion •cornucopian, dystopian, Ethiopian, Salopian, subtopian, Utopian •Guadeloupian •Carian, carrion, clarion, Marian •Calabrian, Cantabrian •Cambrian • Bactrian •Lancastrian, Zoroastrian •Alexandrian • Maharashtrian •equestrian, pedestrian •agrarian, antiquarian, apiarian, Aquarian, Arian, Aryan, authoritarian, barbarian, Bavarian, Bulgarian, Caesarean (US Cesarean), centenarian, communitarian, contrarian, Darien, disciplinarian, egalitarian, equalitarian, establishmentarian, fruitarian, Gibraltarian, grammarian, Hanoverian, humanitarian, Hungarian, latitudinarian, libertarian, librarian, majoritarian, millenarian, necessarian, necessitarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, ovarian, Parian, parliamentarian, planarian, predestinarian, prelapsarian, proletarian, quadragenarian, quinquagenarian, quodlibetarian, Rastafarian, riparian, rosarian, Rotarian, sabbatarian, Sagittarian, sanitarian, Sauveterrian, sectarian, seminarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, topiarian, totalitarian, Trinitarian, ubiquitarian, Unitarian, utilitarian, valetudinarian, vegetarian, veterinarian, vulgarian •Adrian, Hadrian •Assyrian, Illyrian, Syrian, Tyrian •morion • Austrian •Dorian, Ecuadorean, historian, Hyperborean, Nestorian, oratorian, praetorian (US pretorian), salutatorian, Salvadorean, Singaporean, stentorian, Taurean, valedictorian, Victorian •Ugrian • Zarathustrian •Cumbrian, Northumbrian, Umbrian •Algerian, Cancerian, Chaucerian, Cimmerian, criterion, Hesperian, Hitlerian, Hyperion, Iberian, Liberian, Nigerian, Presbyterian, Shakespearean, Siberian, Spenserian, Sumerian, valerian, Wagnerian, Zairean •Arthurian, Ben-Gurion, centurion, durian, holothurian, Khachaturian, Ligurian, Missourian, Silurian, tellurian •Circassian, Parnassian •halcyon • Capsian • Hessian •Albigensian, Waldensian •Dacian • Keatsian •Cilician, Galician, Lycian, Mysian, Odyssean •Leibnizian • Piscean • Ossian •Gaussian • Joycean • Andalusian •Mercian • Appalachian • Decian •Ordovician, Priscian •Lucian •himation, Montserratian •Atlantean, Dantean, Kantian •bastion, Erastian, Sebastian •Mozartian • Brechtian • Thyestean •Fortean • Faustian • protean •Djiboutian •fustian, Procrustean •Gilbertian, Goethean, nemertean •pantheon •Hogarthian, Parthian •Lethean, Promethean •Pythian • Corinthian • Scythian •Lothian, Midlothian •Latvian • Yugoslavian •avian, Batavian, Flavian, Moldavian, Moravian, Octavian, Scandinavian, Shavian •Bolivian, Maldivian, oblivion, Vivian •Chekhovian, Harrovian, Jovian, Pavlovian •alluvion, antediluvian, diluvian, Peruvian •Servian • Malawian • Zimbabwean •Abkhazian • Dickensian •Caucasian, Malaysian, Rabelaisian •Keynesian •Belizean, Cartesian, Indonesian, Milesian, Salesian, Silesian •Elysian, Frisian, Parisian, Tunisian •Holmesian •Carthusian, Malthusian, Venusian

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