The Myth of Self-Regulation

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BP's Deepwater Horizon

Author’s Note: This piece is dedicated to the people of his generation who voted for Tea Party candidates yesterday, and who should have known better.

Self-regulation is a myth. Nobody regulates themselves. Individuals do not, and the idea that money-making concerns (corporations) would regulate themselves is absurd. Corporations are in business for the bottom-line: profits. They want to make money.  This should surprise none of us. This is what they do. Nor should we be surprised that they dislike regulation. Regulation costs them a percentage of their profits, as do taxes. Thus, regulation, like taxation, is for them an evil. So are such issues as minimum wage, benefits packages, and other workers rights issues, including, especially, unions.

It was long ago recognized that people form governments in order to protect themselves from themselves and from each other. Governments are a social construct, a social contract existing for the purpose of regulating human communities, enforcing those laws and customs agreed upon by each community. As Thomas Hobbes said in The Leviathan, in the state of nature (that is, one without government) life is “nasty, brutish, and short.” We need government, and we recognize this need. Even for the most anti-government of the Founding Fathers the need for government was a recognized fact. The issue was not whether we should have a government, but how much power that government should have. Government regulation was there at the get-go, written into the Constitution.

The modern conservative opposition to government is nothing but nihilism masquerading as a rights movement. A world in which everyone can do anything they want is a world without government. And without government there is no regulation because, as I said above, people do not regulate themselves. Laws are essential to every community, as are custom and taboos. These are the ways in which communities regulate themselves and limit behavior which is harmful to the whole.

The necessity of a national government was recognized by the Founding Fathers. The Articles of Confederation failed miserably to provide for the newly liberated colonies. A loose confederation of independent states offered no protection to the states individually or collectively; thus the Constitutional Convention and the United States Constitution. The Constitution placed limits on the “excesses of democracy” evident in the politics of the locality, which of course, favored the locality at the expense of the whole.

Corporations are the same. Corporations are not interested in the whole; they are interested in their own good. That is the nature of the beast, and this must be recognized. Corporations want to make profits, and the more profits the better. Corporate resistance to regulation is understandable. Look at what science has revealed about corporate excesses: the dangers of tobacco, the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals, industrial and agricultural. They make people sick; they kill people. A whole new generation of legal commercials asks those affected to come forward to sue the offenders.

Corporations will not voluntarily police themselves. It is not in their best interest to do so. And when in the 60s we began to see science reveal the dangers of unregulated industry (just as the Gilded Age revealed the dangers of unregulated capitalism) we also saw industry push back and attack and manipulate science. We saw these corporations respond to their threatened profits by manufacturing lies, dishonest “scientific” studies that did what they were paid to do: defend the bottom line.

Wall Street

Corporations still behave this way. They will always behave this way. It should be no surprise to anyone that when regulations are loosened or removed that the corporations behave in a destructive and harmful manner. The Great Depression resulted from unregulated capitalism. The Crash of ’08 had the same origins. The first may have caught people by surprise; the second should not have. We saw how dangerous the unregulated oil industry was when the Exxon Valdez destroyed a swathe of coastline; was it any surprise that deregulation resulted in the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe of 2010? It should not have been. We should be surprised that it did not happen before, or more often. Yet corporations (and the Repubicans) continue to insist that regulation is bad for business and that we need to remove regulations which keep the oil companies from increasing their profits.

The human coast is irrelevant. Companies do not care about people; they are not answerable (as a government is) to the people. They are answerable to their board of directors and the mandate of any successful board of directors is to make profit.

Corporations and Republicans argue that the government does not have the right to regulate them. But the government is regulating them to protect the people, and if a government has no right right, and moreover, no obligation to protect the people on whose behalf it was established in the first place, then what rights and obligations do governments have?

It’s an absurd point to argue; there is no argument whatsoever by the Republicans. Governments do have the right to regulate. Governments from the beginning of time have regulated and they will always regulate. And if the day comes that Republicans get their corporate government you can bet your bottom dollar there will still be regulation, but it will be the regulation of private citizens, like the regulation of women’s bodies advocated by Republicans.

These private citizens – you and me – must be aware of the mythic properties of self-regulation. It does not exist, it will never exist. Wall Street will not regulate itself, nor will the oil companies. They will do whatever they can get away with to maximize their profits and we must accept our share of the blame if we let them. Do not be fooled. These companies are not here to make you wealthy; they are here to make themselves wealthy. The money they save they will not pass on to you. They will gild their parachutes, maximize their profits, and pocket the cash. Deregulating them will help no one but them. Wealth does not trickle down, folks. It trickles up. And the proof is there for anyone who cares to look. Corporations do not answer to us, but they must answer to the government, which at its most basic is the voice of the people, and shame on us if we are too weak to embrace the power we collectively possess by way of our government.

As John Dickinson said in The Liberty Song (July 1768), “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!” If we fall to Republican corporatism, we will have only ourselves to blame.

41 Replies to “The Myth of Self-Regulation”

  1. Hraf, the people have spoken. Accept defeat and quit making up myths. Cause thats just what they are myths.
    News flash for you….Republicans want small gov’t (not no gov’t) Liberal Democrats want Big Gov’t. Why is that Hraf?

  2. jaime, the people also spoke in 2008, and all the Republicans did is make myths and excuses. It was a coup, Obama is a Kenyan Muslim usurper and the Republicans are a government in exile. We have had two years of this from you folks, with no end in sight. In two more years, you will be back to making your myths and your excuses.

    Republicans don’t want small government, jaime. The history of the past half century have shown that to be a lie and if you’ll pardon the expression – a myth. Republicans want regulation and they want oversight and they want government interference – they just want those things directed at private citizens instead of at corporations and the wealthy.

    We live in an evidence-based world, jaime, and none of the evidence is on your side. History speaks as well.

  3. Evidently Hraf you need to start following history like you preach. You are correct 2008 was a big defeat but what was 2010? Republicans picked up more seats than has been accomplised in 60+ yrs. Why do you think that happened…. uh maybe the bullshit lie that Obama sold just didn’t come to light.
    Hraf you can try all the fearmongering you want but evidently it does not work, ie. that the Republicans want to take rights away from women. Give me a break that lie will not work any longer. Are you trying to tell me that women are plain dumb…if so then why don’t you just come out and say it. Women seeing right through the Obama, Pelosi, Reid agenda cause if they didn’t it likely would not have been an asswhoopping last night.

    Hraf here is a myth for you….Obama better pull a Bill Clinton if he wants to even think about term #2, if not asswhooping #2 will cont. in 2012.

    Hraf you are right and we agree on 1 thing THIS IS AN EVIDENCE BASED WORLD victory to the Republicans.

  4. You are misinterpreting the evidence, jaime. The Republicans have their own network, which provides hefty sums of cash to campaigns; they use corporate money and even foreign money to buy elections, and engage in widespread campaigns to keep liberal-leaning voters at home, including especially minority groups like Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

    The fear mongering is all on the right side of the fence, and you have a long way to go yet to give our country to corporations and theocrats. And don’t forget, the Democrats retained control of the Senate. It didn’t all go your way. So no, no victory today for the Republicans, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

  5. Hraf here is a fact for you to check out to see who outspent who in the 2010 election.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/27/us/politics/27money.html
    check this out and see who tried to buy the election but the american people finally woke up.
    The liberals woke the sleeping giant and it seems to me that the minorities as a whole voted for real CHANGE.

    This is nothing personal Hraf just debating you on your policies.

  6. The people did not speak last night about Obama- they were polled about that specifically and that is not what they voted on. The people voted the way they did because of the economy.

    The one you all broke.

    By January 2011, the day they take office, they better fix the economy, jobs and the deficit. Like you all say — it’s in your hands now so don’t blame anyone else.

    If they don’t (and they won’t), the American people will be furious.

    On that note, we come to 2012.

  7. Well of course republicans want to regulate!
    Their sole concern is a woman’s uterus and who sleeps with who in bed.
    And that your children pray in schools, that the 10 commandments be visible everywhere and any illegal immigrants go to jail or GO HOME.
    What other kind of regulations are there?

  8. Self-regulation may have worked in the earlier days of this country but the term “absolute power corrupts absolutely” has been proven time and time again. Rather than politicizing, which appears to be the new antithesis to the opiate of the masses – religion, our leaders should be more altruistic in putting aside their political differences and working together for the common good of the country they claim to love and serve.

    The American people have proven that this is possible. After 911, there was a sense of solidarity in this country not seen since Pearl Harbor. There was a choice to be made then between boldness and fear, and we all know what that decision was. The result was disastrous. Today fear still drives some Americans and that fear is being manipulated by those who seek to capitalize upon it for their own gain. Repealing regulation under the guise of enabling corporations greater freedom is a lie. Regulation is a rule of law. Without it, decisions are made without consideration for any impact beyond the immediate realization of the objective.

    Two words: Deepwater Horizon. Because regulation was not strictly enforced, the resonance of this disaster will be felt for generations to come. Ask the folks in the Gulf Coast how they feel about that. And about the need for, and enforcement of, regulation.

    Hrafnkell, you did a good job here. Those who say otherwise are far removed from the reality of what happens when corporations are unaccountable for what they do.

  9. Sarah nice try, but in reality answer 1 question? Who has been in control since 07. That’s right you got it right, the Democrats. The president doesn’t make law… he just signs it into effect. We won’t blame anyone else, kinda of like you still blaming Bush.
    Do the american public a favor and take credit for the mess that we are in.
    2012 can’t get here fast enough.

  10. Judging by Boehner’s speech, there may well be a time when you find disappointment in your own party. The GOP has been besieged by the Tea Party, as well as the Democrats. They may have taken those seats, but they are coming in like lambs, not lions.

    This was not an affirmation of GOP beliefs. This was a referendum on the Obama administration. The GOP knows that.

  11. I have to take issue with your evidence since there was a large money dump that came from groups who did not have to disclose their contributors. This is in the article you cite. It even goes as far as to point out that their stats are only disclosed funds up until October. So though the headline says one thing, it is somewhat negated by the body of the article.

  12. Republicans want regulation when it suits their purposes, which makes their arguments about “big government” disingenuous. I read an articles by Mark Penn, a one-time advisor to Hillary Clinton in her bid for the 2008 Democratic nomination, as well as one by CNN commentator Paul Begala. These articles are featured in the Huffington Post. Both stressed the need for the Obama administration to govern from the center, as if the president hasn’t been doing this all along. Apparently, they are choosing to overlook the well-established and well-documented fact that the Party of No has been obstructionist in a way that has derailed some major legislation. Their advice would be sound only with a truly loyal opposition instead of one bent on this president’s failure, which means the country itself would fail. I can only wonder what planet these men have been residing on since January 20, 2009.

    As far as self-regulation is concerned, does anyone seriously believe these corporations won’t get away with whatever they can? Their loyalty is to the bottom dollar, and not to American citizens. It is a travesty that they were able to buy so many elections, in order to support people who won’t hold them accountable. This travesty is magnified by the fact that too many Americans have short memories and are about instant gratification. That, along with what a Washington Post columnist named Courtland Milloy called “homegrown ignorance” is a much greater threat to this country’s well-being than terrorism is. It’s disheartening that this country, with all of its resources and wealth, is lagging behind others in terms of health care, education, infrastructure, and other measures of national well-being, while jingoists like John Boehner appeal to complacency and ignorance. They would have us believe that all we have to do is to coast along on past glories instead of doing the hard work involved in moving forward. Worst of all, people like Boehner have the kind of quality health care they would deny to others by dismantling health care reform. It’s a sad commentary, because Americans ought to know better by now.

  13. Who is responsible for TARP? Bush. You know, that last-minute Hail Mary attempt to forestall the economic meltdown that would be the hallmark of a disastrous presidency. Who presided over the money pit that was Iraq? A trillion dollars was lost – completely unaccounted for in Iraq? Halliburton. Blackwater. Katrina. 911. Iraq. Bear Sterns. All on his watch and Bush doesn’t deserve any blame???

  14. Jay let me guess the Democrats have disclosed every single contribution? The answer is NO.
    So nice try to spin the article into the Liberal’s favor. It’s not going to work just look at the results.
    Here is a news flash for you and your liberal buddies…. Black, Hispanic, & Minorities win elections for the REPUBLICANS.

  15. The Republican ability to reconstruct events is breath-taking. After all, 9/11 now happened on Obama’s watch and Afghanistan is “Obama’s War.”

    Facts mean nothing to the Republican Party.

  16. As Charlie Cook said – this was a gift to the Republican party from the American people – they didn’t win anything. They are now in office because we are living in an age of extremes.

    No matter who you voted for yesterday we all need to face facts – things are going to get worse before they get better. More people are going to lose their jobs and houses. ALL public services will be cut – social security, medicare and medicaid-how many rich white old people take advantage of these programs? Many I am sure, and you can bet they will be angry about that, too. Libraries, college grants, on and on. You think it won’t affect you because the Republicans are going to kiss it all better. They won’t. Republicans are not going to fix anything over night just like Obama couldn’t fix the mess he was left with overnight.

    Go fix yourself a cocktail and toast 2 more years of getting absolutely nothing done for the American people. GRIDLOCK.

  17. Here here Anne!

    One more thing – over spending seems to be a disease that runs in our society. Look at the amount of personal debt clocked up? Instant gratification galore!

  18. Although I am usually skeptical about Rasmussen polls, one came out that says 59% of voters say they are likely to be disappointed with the GOP performance in the House, and includes 38% who say it is very likely. There is something very wrong when folks vote for representatives that they don’t expect to perform well. It sounds like they wanted to punish Obama and the Democrats, but were willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces in order to make that point. That kind of thinking feeds the perception that Americans are stupid.

  19. Anne this sounds like a typical liberal….when something goes their way they use it. This is a prime example… you are usually skeptical about Rasmussen polls well then why in the hell use it now.
    When its a handout a liberal will take it….sorry Anne just using the words that come out of your mouth.
    Now lets see how you spin this….

  20. I wrote this so I could send it to Dennis Miller years ago, while sitting at the cabin as fall approached..” Para graphical Time Explained by Freud ” August 24 1997 by C. Hamann…I’M lost cried the emotion, I’m found cherished the soul, I’m perplexed wondered the observer…Comments heard from the Trinty as they passed thru China on the way to Nazareth…..Meanwhile in Merry Ole England Merlin after a long binge of Alchemy touched his magical wand to a glass of spirits or better known as Holy Water, and invented the first MicroBrew, or in layman’s terms by the bottle or glass. So Dr. Freud how do you explain the written documents found in hidden computer under Homers tomb, obviously Microsoft has had some ideas stored for sometime.These are the clearest details to directly link the past with the present. Dr. Freud’s response : Gentlemen as we all know the Trinty was on vacation in India when their software broke down thus handicapping them in their homeground of moral choices, thus we have a state of conscience thought, either to learn of the art of karma sutra or to establish a resort there and have trainees learn of this practice. The vote favored the resort- so thus became club-med. Now being the computer quit working they went over to China to borrow a Abacus. Well it turned out that IBM had moved from Wong Kong to its new warm climate in Cambodia. Well the Trinty figured that since Cambodia was a subculture of India that the ladies there knew the art of Karma Sutra, and so happy with their destination they started for IBM through China picked up a couple of wild mushrooms and had a head trip. Thats when Charlie Trie approached the Trinty asking to travel with his en’trage whom were lending some financial help to the Assocation of Retired Wizzards who had just opened a coffee shop in uptown Nazareth. So the story of emotion, soul , and observor was processed on Janet Reno’s Note-pad ( power 200mhz ) and then given to Homers Great grandson who happened to be on the river yatching that summer. Now you may ask where does this Merlin fit in? Well Micro brewery’s are back and Merlin was no fool , everyone has a ” little spirit ” now and then. So now we have a no nonsence government. Have you seen Paula ( Jones ) wearing Bills favorite attire – ( nose ) ?. A working class A/G Janets no fool , her favorite password ” gott-cha ” . And of course the Trinty- Don Mclean said it best ” They caught the last train for the coast the day the music died”, the money may have run out ?… May the Micro-Brewery long be lived- at least we’ll be singing joyously ….Just one more word of note, this be a summary in another history book 500 years from now…lets hope i can read it then…..

  21. I would be more than happy if the government set a limit of $100,000 earnings in a year and up would not be eligible for government healthcare

  22. I wrote this so I could send it to Dennis Miller years ago, while sitting at the cabin as fall approached..” Para graphical Time Explained by Freud ” August 24 1997 by C. Hamann…I’M lost cried the emotion, I’m found cherished the soul, I’m perplexed wondered the observer…Comments heard from the Trinty as they passed thru China on the way to Nazareth…..Meanwhile in Merry Ole England Merlin after a long binge of Alchemy touched his magical wand to a glass of spirits or better known as Holy Water, and invented the first MicroBrew, or in layman’s terms by the bottle or glass. So Dr. Freud how do you explain the written documents found in the hidden computer under Homers tomb, obviously Microsoft has had some ideas stored for sometime.These are the clearest details to directly link the past with the present. Dr. Freud’s response : Gentlemen as we all know the Trinty was on vacation in India when their software broke down thus handicapping them in their homeground of moral choices, thus we have a state of conscience thought, either to learn of the art of karma sutra or to establish a resort there and have trainees learn of this practice. The vote favored the resort- so thus became club-med. Now being the computer quit working they went over to China to borrow a Abacus. Well it turned out that IBM had moved from Wong Kong to its new warm climate in Cambodia. Well the Trinty figured that since Cambodia was a subculture of India that the ladies there knew the art of Karma Sutra, and so happy with their destination they started for IBM through China picked up a couple of wild mushrooms and had a head trip. Thats when Charlie Trie approached the Trinty asking to travel with his en’trage whom were lending some financial help to the Assocation of Retired Wizzards who had just opened a coffee shop in uptown Nazareth. So the story of emotion, soul , and observor was processed on Janet Reno’s Note-pad ( power 200mhz ) and then given to Homers Great grandson who happened to be on the river yatching that summer. Now you may ask where does this Merlin fit in? Well Micro brewery’s are back and Merlin was no fool , everyone has a ” little spirit ” now and then. So now we have a no nonsence government. Have you seen Paula ( Jones ) wearing Bills favorite attire – ( nose ) ?. A working class A/G Janets no fool , her favorite password ” gott-cha ” . And of course the Trinty- Don Mclean said it best ” They caught the last train for the coast the day the music died”, the money may have run out ?… May the Micro-Brewery long be lived- at least we’ll be singing joyously ….Just one more word of note, this be a summary in another history book 500 years from now…lets hope i can read it then…..

  23. sorry that this was posted twice…the first did not seem to post, and i left 1 word out of the first ….thanks….

  24. why don’t you show us where a Republican president and administration has ever made the government smaller? How easily you are sucked in

  25. There is no corporation that will regulate themselves. If the republicans have their way we will be back to mercury filled streams and the Cleveland river on fire again

    With the latest Supreme court decision, it wont be long before the republicans have deep enough financial support to never be out of power again.

  26. My my, speaking of myths lol,

    Nobody here is for big government!

    We’re all for SMART government. A proper proportioned government that efficiently manages the country, not to small, not too big. We like it Momma Bear Just Right baby! – These comments from your side like, “Tax & Spend Liberals” and how we’re for “Big Government” are talking points that they keep feeding you till you belive it – The method is called Glittering generalities – It’s a way using words stir emotions, force thinking in one particular direction and someone who is a master at the art can even put people into light hypnotic trance so that they can imprint their beliefs onto them, these particular talking points have never been true and never will be true simply because absolutely nobody here likes taxes and absolutely nobody here wants over-bloated government weighing us down!

    I say we all stop slinging rhetoric, and parroted talking points from either Foxnews and MSNBC and start work together to solve problems.

    As for self-regulation, yeah it sounds great and all but would you put a 4 year old in a room full of candy and expect him not to eat it?

    Companies are companies, they are in the businesses of making money and their CEO’s are in the business of making more money and saving money too and that means their JOB is to be greedy and stingy at the same time – worst of 2 worlds!

    You can’t expect greedy selfish people to do the non-greedy and non-selfish things, its just not in their nature and we shouldn’t hold that against them or even punish them for it, instead, lets be productive and put that to work for the country. In practice they cut corners to save costs, they lay off people to “trim the fat” when that fat they are talking about are American citizens, not products. This means that Unions are a necessary part of the country, without them we all work in fields for 5 cents a day, without benifits, without healthcare, without vacations, without restroom breaks, you pee where you’re standing! Yep, this country has been there and done that, in the last 60 years no less.

    Yes a businesses grows faster and prospers when there is less regulation, to that end I believe its a balancing act. We have to give companies enough freedom to grow but they HAVE to be regulated, to keep in place checks and balances, the same basic principle that the United States of American runs on. What’s good for America, is good for Corporate America!

    I work in computer security, basically I’m a private hacker (good kind, not the crooked kind, but I could be I guess if I wanted lol). Every day I have to work on large company data banks and I’m in a constant battle between making the computers secure and making it so our developers can get in and work. The more secure I make it, the less freedom they have and thus we get less work done. But the less secure I make it, the faster our development teams can move to meet today’s needs. I have to make concessions, I have to draw a plan of action and submit it for approval, in that plan I have to list out the pros and cons of every situation from one extreme to the other and why I chose the path I did. Its the same thing the American government will have to do with Corporate America. They have to be put on a plan of action, balance the load between corporate freedoms and America’s security.

  27. Sheesh, I feel so much hate jaime. Take a deep breath. Now, read my comments above, I think you’ll find them some what inspirational (I hope). Then lets get down to work my friend; we got a lot left to do in the country and we need both sides to pitch in and lend a hand, neither side did enough and we’re all responsible; there, lets moveon.org baby!

    OH HELL YES, WE CAN!

    I hereby endorse Jon Stewart for President – 2016, change we can laugh about, in good humour! :D

  28. lol, nice try, but you had nothing to gain so it wasn’t in your best interest to look the other way when you happened to do something wrong. lol :P :P

  29. so much hate buddy. I want to personally apologize for whoever insulted your intelligence, now can we please work together? We got a lot to do and little time to do it.

  30. deep breaths people. in the nose, out the mouth. say it with me. goose-frah-bah! or oooohhhhmmm (if you prefer) lol.

    ok jaime, America lost. We lost jobs, we lost money, we lost faith in our own fellow Americans. Nobody won last night. Your own leader said so, he said now is not the time to celebrate. so stop celebrating, I’m following your leader; why aren’t you? Lets get this country back on track; stop bickering and get some shit done man. Find a Pro-American cause and go support it and trust your fellow Americans will support you! :)

    I hereby endorse Jon Stewart for President – 2016 , change we can laugh about, in good humour! :P

  31. Am I the only one here that thinks Jaime is actually that Smarg or whatever his name was? The sentence structure and literal signature is very much the same – my keystroke biometric software here says its a high probability, except he did toss in a couple links, that was more than Snarf, Smurf, Barf, whatever his name was; ever did. hmm. (it was definitely Smarg; I’m just being facetious)

  32. It is called ” HONESTY “…it was not my intention to repeat the comment twice….Just as in government, if it worked that way one would acknowledge a mistake and not repeat it, or at least try to avoid it….This is not nothing gained- nothing lost….ask those people who now live without a home and cannot feed their kids or the elderly who have no heat…they tried to repeat their problem so someone would hear them…so I guess they were wrong also !!!!!…..

  33. There are reasonable, intelligent conservatives but you are not one of them. What makes your remark about “handouts” totally ridiculous is that the do-nothing Party of No representatives and senators earn large salaries by obstructing important legislation. Their salaries are paid for by tax payers. If that’s not a handout, I don’t know what is. Now, they are talking about no cooperation with the president, which for them is more of the same. I would also say, as another example, that enjoying the best health care by trying to deny it to others through repealing health care reform deprives anyone of the right to accuse others of accepting handouts. Frankly, I don’t care about the Rasmussen poll one way or another. But if what it says is true, then it speaks volumes about people who vote for candidates who promise to do more of the same that brought us to this point.

  34. I think you take your head out of the sand and look at who controlled the House and the Senate from 2006 till now. Blaming the current problems on the Republicans when the House and the Senate when the Democrats had control for the past 4 years

  35. Well looks like someone didn’t read the whole article. Sure the direct and small contributions for Democrats certainly was more then for rebulican counterparts, however for ujjust one of the campaigns referenced, the article goes on to point out that a single republican organization (see campaign organizer) assisted the republican candiate with an additional $700’000 in further assistance. So don’t say democrats are spending huge amounts of money on thier campaigns because even the article that you referenced proves you wrong.
    Maybe next time you’ll read the whole article, not just the headline.

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