The Murphmeister pronounces

Of course Europe is a neoliberal project

Sirisly?

Discuss.

40 thoughts on “The Murphmeister pronounces”

  1. Well, it’s a curate’s egg innit?

    I’d argue that demolishing border controls, abolishing (more or less successfully) trade barriers, stopping governments prodnosing every person, good, service, or unit of currency crossing a border, and extending the right of residence and establishment across 28 countries is a pretty liberal (classical) thing to do. That whole freedom of movement of people, goods, capital, and services thing.

    Of course there are other bits that are illiberally wasteful, prodnosing, socialist, restrictive and bureaucratic. But on the whole, the package deal leans liberal (classical) for me.

  2. Despite my loathing of the organisation, there is a convincing argument to be made that the EEC/EU has been the strongest anti-socialist force. Free trade, compulsary public competition, free movement etc.

    The problem is that this argument then goes on to say that the EU is a strong corporatist force. It is pro-business rather than pro-market. And corporatism ain’t neoliberalism, whatever neoliberalism actually is.

  3. No, bollocks.

    All of the freedoms, movement of peoples, trade, expression, property, are easily achievable iwthin national boundaries or by treaty. We in the UK had these alteady. There is and never was any need for an overridi ng supra-national law and executive. There was certainly never any need for an unaccountable new government.
    Look, the proof is in the eating. Which party has been aginising over our national sovereignty and personal and commercial rights for the past 25 years? And which other party owes its very existence to disatisfaction with that first party’s indecision? And which parties just didn’t have these agonies? And which party did our Socialist state broadcstser label Little Englanders, closet racists and “quite mad”.
    The left – Ritchie, Ivan Horrocks,etc – have been twisting in the wind for a couple of years now, trying to find a way out of their mess. Their plan now, as it always is, is to re-write history. Why are my fellow correspondents trying to help them?

  4. The problem is, nobody seems to really agree what “Neoliberal” means. If it means “the financial/economic system we currently have” then yes, the EU is a neoliberal project, but that’s just circular.

    So I dunno, what do we mean by “neoliberal”?

  5. So Much For Subtlety

    JamesV

    Well, it’s a curate’s egg innit?

    I would agree with that. Except it is actually right out of the French Revolution. Which started out mildly inspired by the British Glorious Revolution and the American Revolution. So down went internal trade barriers like the wall around Paris. Down went the mediaeval Guilds that were suppressed as an interference in free trade.

    But also down went the provincial Parliaments, with their own customs and laws, their own weights and measures. And of course their own degrees of freedom.

    The French are just re-enacting their great modern foundation myth. I can’t wait until we get to the guillotining.

  6. I think you can argue it both ways.

    What you cannot argue though is that the EU is democratic.

  7. @SMFS

    I’m just hoping Marine Le Pen gets to be President, just for the joy of watching the dismay of the Guardianistas.

  8. @Ironman, freedom by bilateral treaty can be abolished at the stroke of a pen. Of course that could happen with the EU as well, but the peer-pressure factor makes it a bit less likely. I feel more comfortable in my freedoms in Europe than if the UK had to have a bunch of bilateral agreements with 27 other nations.

    @SMFS, yes, not having hundreds of different types of weights and measures is a consequence of unity, free trade, call it what you will. It’s thoroughly inconvenient (NASA blasting satellites off at the wrong angle, for example) to have to do all that converting. Maybe we could even apply the same principle to our unit of exchange?

    The freedom you gain by everyone knowing how much of what you are exchanging exceeds, admitttedly only in my opinion, that lost in those villagers down the road no longer being able to sell their wheat in shillings per grommit, while I want to sell it in crowns per furlew.

    I am also ignorant of what “neoliberal” means, other than as a term of abuse used mainly by so-called liberals of actual liberals.

    @Frederick, can you argue the UK’s house of lords is democratic? What about the privy council? Does the UK vote for its judges? Its head of state? How about the chairman of the undemocratic Bank of England?

  9. Also, if Brussels pulls off the trick of actually stopping eurozone countries from destroying themselves through indebtedness is that not a victory for “neo”-liberalism over socialism?

    It might not be democratic but since when did we think democracy gives you the moral right to mortgage the future generation’s seed corn three times over for some comradely cake today?

    Democracy is too often used to legitimise utterly morally bankrupt things – bankrupting the government is prominent among those.

  10. Also, the whole concept of the nation as we knew it from about 1750 to 1950 is on its way out, not just in Europe. Only truly huge countries like China or the USA will still be able to do more or less as they please on a national government level without reference to anyone else in 100 years.

    We could transition to something in which individuals have greater freedoms but, ironically, less say due to the sheer scale of the thing (the EU for example), i.e. your own castle in a much larger castle, or to something far more sinister in which individuals have fewer freedoms and no say, i.e. no personal castle inside a fortress. I don’t think the option of having a lot of say in what your little village or little country is like is on the table any more.

  11. @ Ironman. The argument is that those freedoms were not achievable in Europe (and specifically not in Europe) via intergovernmental agreement alone. This is because the bias towards state intervention and protectionism was (is?) too deeply ingrained in most places on the continent to be easily and consistently overcome. The EEC came into existence to conciliate those opposed to economic liberalism, in effect.

  12. JamesV>

    I agree that countries are looking increasingly obsolete. I don’t agree that it takes away the chance of micro-states. If anything, it encourages them. The two things governments are supposed to do can be divided into two categories: practical matters like emptying the bins, and encouraging public goods. The former is best done at a local level – say, a unit of 10k people – and the latter is best done on the largest possible scale.

    A system of small, locally governed states working under the umbrella of an EU-sized federal system makes a good deal of sense. Not the EU as we know it of course, but a group that size or even bigger with basic shared values and relatively minimal power, and real power remaining with the microstates. What we don’t need is the third layer of ‘national’ government in the middle.

  13. Dave, I think I agree with you and have been failing to articulate it as usual.

    The objection comes from people who want their microstate to have powers it doesn’t need. One of my favourite examples is the “Umweltzone” in Germany, whereby every little village and hamlet can determine which emissions classes of vehicles are allowed to drive within their borders, and can insist on pain of a fine that you have a sticker in the windshield proving compliance.

    That’s a power that belongs at the highest possible level. If a vehicle is safe and roadworthy and legal and insured, that doesn’t suddenly change because you drive out of one village to the next. If anything it’s particularly important that movement is not regulated on the local or even national level but that harmonised rules apply to as great an area as possible.

    So it’s what that “real power” exercised at local level is that matters, and possibly why we haven’t yet completely done away with national governments. If your freedom is defined and defended at the supranational level then by definiton the microstate cannot choose to hang people for chewing gum without a license.

  14. @ Ian B

    Neoliberal = anything that anyone on the traditional left(ish) side of a debate doesn’t like the sound of. Maybe it once meant something.. but now it’s just an (exclusively derogatory) catch-all.

    @ ukliberty

    “ISTM about as meaningful as “progressive”.”

    Yeah. That’s pretty much bang on. It’s a buzzword.

  15. James>

    I can’t say I agree, on the umweltzone. That’s something people should be free to do at a local level, if they want. Hell, they can ban dark-skinned people or Jews, if they insist. Then they’ll find, I suspect, that there are repercussions to do with their relations with their neighbours.

    If National Highway 1 runs through Crazytown, and Crazytown decides to impose a restriction on which vehicles can use it of such irrational severity that it pisses everyone off, I’d imagine they’d have trouble buying water and power from their neighbours. In extremis, I could even envisage a situation where all borders of a pariah state are closed to everyone except those migrating in or out permanently.

    I try not to get too caught up with the way we currently do things. EU laws tend to be unpopular, but if they were expressed as optional quid-pro-quos which micronations could accept or reject, they’d have a better reputation. Instead of mandating an open border area, for example, the QPQ could be that if you accept the open border provisions, your citizens are free to travel within that area, and if not, then they’re not.

  16. Andrew MacBrayne

    James -“The freedom you gain by everyone knowing how much of what you are exchanging exceeds, admitttedly only in my opinion, that lost in those villagers down the road no longer being able to sell their wheat in shillings per grommit, while I want to sell it in crowns per furlew”

    I don’t regard knowledge of the quantity of stuff you are exchanging as a “freedom”. It sounds more like a convenience. There is surely no right or freedom to expect everyone to bend over backwards to make your life more convient. On the other hand if I continue to use measurements that no one understands I am sure the market will soon open my eyes to how disadvantageous obscurantism is. No bureaucrats would be required.

  17. @Andrew MacByrne, you might but most peeps ain’t like that.

    @Dave, the problem is when you have thousands of different petty restrictions you don’t even know about it until you fall foul of it. The Umweltzone applies to foreign cars too. How many foreign motorists know you need a Euro4 sticker with your numberplate written on it to be allowed to drive around Frankfurt, and not doing so will cost them €40 and 1 point?

    And how many of them, possibly only here for a day or two, or even just getting off the motorway to avoid service station prices, are going to get the right paperwork together to go to the Zulassungsstelle and stand in line to get one?

    Mobility is something close to a basic human right, the more the same it is in all places the better it really is.

  18. Andrew MacBrayne

    James – “@Andrew MacByrne, you might but most peeps ain’t like that.”

    I disagree. But even if you were right, I see no need for the state or a supranational body to intervene in this case. Having someone say that one cannot sell of one’s property in a harmless manner because one is an idiot and enjoys going against the grain or because brain dead consumers won’t know what the measurements mean strikes me as about as illiberal a policy as one can get.

  19. Andrew MacBrayne

    James – “Mobility is something close to a basic human right”.

    I also disagree with this. Mobility is only a right so long as it doesn’t infringe on another’s property rights. Just as you have no right to come into my home without y permission, you have no right to enter a village if you fail to satisfy their quaint demands.

  20. Just as you have no right to come into my home without y permission, you have no right to enter a village if you fail to satisfy their quaint demands.

    Is a village private property, then? And how far does that extend? To a town, city or country?

  21. As a contributor of slightly left-wing opinions (about the same as Harold Macmillan, so, far to the left of the current Labour Party), I would say that the left has begun to clue in that they were right royally conned, specifically by Jacques Delors in a famous and duplicitous address to the TUC about “Social Europe”. It is now clear that: the EU services directive ensures privatisation ;the European Court of Justice undermines wage levels and collective bargaining in general ;the competition policy outlaws state aid to vital industries; the stability and growth pact kiboshes Keynesian demand stimulus; every single treaty has banned resale price maintenance, legal in the US and the traditional freely contracted trading system in this country which ensured good were sold at the same price in big shops and small.
    Ian B wonders what “neo liberalism” is: well this is. I can’t see what Tim can possibly object to.

  22. Crazystadt, Nordrheinwesftalen decrees that motorists shall drive on the left. Little Pidlington, Berks. decrees that motorists shall drive on the right.

    Discuss, from the perspective of libertarian self-determination.

  23. And there are no signs at the entrance to Crazystadt or Little Pidlington. It’s your business to know the law – ignorance is not a defence.

  24. Andrew MacBrayne

    UKLiberty – “Is a village private property, then?”

    A village will be a collection of private dwellings sufficiently proximate to each other to qualify as a village – terribly circular I know, but you probably understand what I mean. As such, the village per se will not be private property, but the private owners of everything in the village – i.e. the houses and the pub – will be able to decide amongst themselves how things will be run: will a new traffic light be put up at the junction, how will they attract funding for the village festival etc. If the village charter stipulates that a majority vote can completely cut off the village from the outside world then they should be able to do so. The extent of the village’s jurisdiction would be the extent of the properties that fall within the village boundaries, as laid out by charter or common sense.

    ” And how far does that extend? To a town, city or country?”

    I think there are important differences between a country and a village which alow us to apply different principles. For instance it is a lot easier to move from a batshit village to a more sane village than it is to relocate to another country. Also, a country will never be entirely privately owned, whereas a small village could conceivably be made up entirely of private property.

  25. Andrew MacBrayne

    JamesV – Word gets out that the town is nuts and people look on maps to make sure they avoid the town. Or, enough people flout the law that eventually it become too much of a hassle for the town to police. Eventually the law is dropped.

  26. @JamesV
    The simple answer is Germany is not a country I’ve visited for a long time & as I usually drive places it is now knocked off my list of countries to visit or drive through. I can go to Poland via the CR. And that’s what Germany will lose. My custom. Maybe they don’t want it. Their country, their choice.
    And it’s entirely possible that’s why they have those regulations. They don’t want foreigners like me cluttering up their roads. i respect that choice. It’s not my prerogative to impose my presence where it’s not wanted.

  27. Andrew MacBrayne

    Now consider this: the EU passes a ridiculous and illiberal law – regulations of the curvature of fruit and veg or banning snuss for instance. What can you do? The EU is very big and so moving out of it is pretty hard for many people, and if most member states favour it then it will be difficult for individuals to promote a change in the law.

  28. “The purpose of the single currency is to prevent the encroachment of Anglo-Saxon values in Europe.”

    Belgian Finance Minister, 1996.

  29. So Much For Subtlety

    JamesV

    Also, the whole concept of the nation as we knew it from about 1750 to 1950 is on its way out, not just in Europe. Only truly huge countries like China or the USA will still be able to do more or less as they please on a national government level without reference to anyone else in 100 years.

    Sorry but this is absolutely nonsense. It is the sort of tripe peddled by Federalists and Foreign Office types because they want it to be true, not because it is. Looking around the world, large countries are an utter disaster. The best run countries in the world are small. It is probably not a surprise that the only Third World economies to become First World ones, apart from Japan and its colony South Korea, are tiny Singapore and tiny Hong Kong. Nigeria on the other hand has not. Nor has Pakistan. Now both quite large countries. The only large wealthy countries in the world tend to be English speaking and Federal.

    Even within Europe, which countries are working better – small Norway, Denmark and Sweden or large Spain, Italy and even France?

    There is no problem that needs regulation at anything above the national level. God knows Europe has proved this. Which is working better – the Common Fisheries policy or Iceland’s fisheries policy? If anything, the problem is that too much is regulated at the national level and not enough at the local level.

    We could transition to something in which individuals have greater freedoms but, ironically, less say due to the sheer scale of the thing (the EU for example), i.e. your own castle in a much larger castle, or to something far more sinister in which individuals have fewer freedoms and no say, i.e. no personal castle inside a fortress.

    We could but we won’t. Because the French tradition, while very efficient, is profoundly illiberal and it is that model that the EU is built on. The larger it gets, the further away its ENA graduates are away from ordinary people, the less accountable they are. Which is why those Foreign Office types love working at the UN or in the EU. They can behave like little Gods. We see the result in France – four Republics, two Empires, two Resorations, The Commune, Vichy and a military coup every fifty or sixty years. No thanks.

    I don’t think the option of having a lot of say in what your little village or little country is like is on the table any more.

    But it should be. And if it isn’t it isn’t because of some law of nature of whim of the Allmight, but because of specific decisions by a caste of civil servants and their enablers to take power away from ordinary people. Hence the need for hemp.

  30. Generally agreed, SMFS, except for the “on the french model” thing. I’m more inclined to remember this old joke-

    “Heaven is where the police are British, the chefs are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and it’s all organised by the Swiss.

    Hell is where the chefs are British, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, the police are Germans and it’s all organised by the Italians.”

    The EU being the second one, made real.

  31. @SMFS, I suppose it’s a matter of taste whether you prefer a single tyranny or a thousand different tyrannies. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages.

    It is a genuine inconvenience to have different and especially locally different rules of the road. Austria expects me to have a high-viz jacket per passenger in the cabin. France expects me to have a breath tester made by a politically-connected French company, Germany has (in places) the coloured sticker in the windshield law.

    Maybe the freedom of governments big or small to set such rules is a major issue of libertarian self-determination, a right to restrict that can only be clawed from your cold dead hands. My view is that taking that sovereignty away from town councils and national governments is a good thing and I only have to cope with one set of rules, and accept that even that one set will have bizarre restrictions I don’t agree with.

    Ironically, those maligned British chefs are arguably now the best in Europe.

  32. THe problem is, one tyranny is far worse in a practical sense than “a thousand tyrannies”, simply because the probability of a thousand societies all becoming tyrannies independently is remote. This of course was Gibbon’s famous argument for the sucess of Europe, and the failure of Rome. When Rome went bad, the whole Empire went down with it, which could not happen in a Europe divided into nations and principalities.

    Hitler ruling Germany is very bad. But if Hitler had ruled a world Nazism, who would have there been to oppose him?

    This is of fundamental importance.

    Progressives dream of a world benign tyranny; the same rules from pole to pole and from Greenwich to, er, Greenwich. But this is based on a woeful naivete combined with evangelical certainty. They are sure that their rules are the right rules, and the world would be Utopian if everyone obeyed them.

    But there has been no society in history that have got everything right, and most have got a great deal wrong, often catastrophically wrong. The same Progressive movement a hundred years ago were in love with eugenics, and ridding the world of homosexuals. And beer, for heaven’s sake. And that doesn’t even mention the dreams of global communism. You think they’ve got it right this time?

    You sure about that?

    Social system diversity is essential to human progress, because if somebody gets something wrong, somebody somewhere else won’t have got it wrong. It is not a choice between “one tyranny and a thousand tyrannies”. It is a choice between one tyranny and a thousand societies, some of which are tyrannies. That is a very big difference.

  33. IanB, the coutnerargument is Europe for the last thousand and more years which was a clusterfuck of warring states and shifting allegiances.

    The point about a single bad tyranny having nowhere to escape to is taken, but you don’t, as in any debate, get to claim the good bits of your view and the bad bits of those of your opponent with no consideration for the bad of yours and the good of your opponent’s. I’m neither a “progressive” nor one who dreams of a one-world tyranny.

    Surely the solution to either way of doing things is to have strict limits on the capabilities of governments. How ironic it is that it is mostly self-styled libertarians who bleat the most about limits on national sovereignty (particularly when those limits make life better for individuals).

  34. IanB, the coutnerargument is Europe for the last thousand and more years which was a clusterfuck of warring states and shifting allegiances.

    Which nonetheless recovered from its mistakes, thrived and prospered and invented modernity. Because of the diversity of that clusterfuck of warring states.

    The point about a single bad tyranny having nowhere to escape to is taken, but you don’t, as in any debate, get to claim the good bits of your view and the bad bits of those of your opponent with no consideration for the bad of yours and the good of your opponent’s.

    I don’t know what this means. It seems to be an attempt to make a rhetorical point but without any actual substance to the claim.

    I’m neither a “progressive”

    Neither did I claim that you are. But the dominant political bloc currently seeking to engineer a post-nationalist global dispensation are.

    nor one who dreams of a one-world tyranny.

    What a pity then that above you stated that you think a global one no worse than a smattering of local ones, which is the point we’re discussing.

    Surely the solution to either way of doing things is to have strict limits on the capabilities of governments.

    Maybe. But nobody is offering that. The current tranzi system seeks government with unrestricted authority and arbitrary powers.

    How ironic it is that it is mostly self-styled libertarians who bleat the most about limits on national sovereignty (particularly when those limits make life better for individuals).

    Except that that is a misrepresentation. Libertarians seek to remove sovereignty over the individual from higher level political structures, which is the exact opposite to the current plan to raise that sovereignty to even higher, more remote, and comprehensive structures. We want power to devolve down, not evolve upwards. The two things are entirely oppositional.

    To use an example, a libertarian wants a society in which nobody can say “it is illegal to be gay”, not one in which the decision as to whether you may be gay or not is dependent on the goodwill of a council of distant technocrats who may not even have heard of your country, let alone the village you live in.

    A thousand years of European kulturkampf produced the greatest civilisation the world has ever known. Don’t knock it.

  35. Your “multiple local semi-tyrannies” model does not even acknowledge the inconvenience of having each village be able to determine on what side of the road one would drive (on which day of the week). You imagine society to be populated entirely by enlightenment gentlemen such as yourself who would do their research before setting out on a journey and take a large detour around Crazytown.

    And I still don’t get how – if we have all this total individual self-determination – how any village council could even dare to tell people which side of the road to drive on. Surely that’s up to the proud freeman himself to decide? Why after the village council decides for the left should the oppressed minority of right-side drivers not rise up and exercise their devolved-down sovereignty?

    We need rules, QED. I agree in general the fewer the better. It’s on the local-scale/larger scale that I don’t agree with you – some rules are better established at as wide a level as possible and village libertarianism be damned. Other things should indeed be left to the village elders.

    Limits on the power of government are on the table – prominent discussion in Germany on constitutional government borrowing limits. At least someone has realised it’s better for politicians to be made to decide to stop pissing the future against the wall before the market decides they should stop doing it.

  36. You imagine society to be populated entirely by enlightenment gentlemen such as yourself who would do their research before setting out on a journey and take a large detour around Crazytown.

    Not at all, James. Quite the opposite. The whole point of individualist/libertarian values is understanding that human beings are not only flawed, but subjective, so there is no universal “right way”. One man’s Crazytown is another man’s SensibleTown.

    So the point is, to be able to take a diversion around Crazytown, instead of finding Crazytown is global and there’s no escaping it.

    You see, I’m not advocating tyrannies, or semi-tyrannies. I’m advocating diversity, so we don’t get stuck with one global, inescapable tyranny.

    Limits on the power of government are on the table – prominent discussion in Germany on constitutional government borrowing limits.

    And yet strangely you’re advocating the abolition of Germany and its constitution in favour of a global hegemony. In which, if Germans disagree with something, there is fuck all they can do about it. Because the Council Of Technocrats in their faraway council chamber decided they know what’s better for everyone, including Germans, than the Germans do.

    Don’t like the rules in Crazytown? Avoid it? Don’t like the rules in CrazyEarth? You’re fucked.

  37. I don’t recall advocating a council of technocrats, that’s just talking past me at the straw man. I’d make a lot of changes to the way the EU works but still think even with all the dumbfuckery and graft (really, why are our expectations of politicians so high?) it’s better than not having one, and being the layer of government that eats orders of magnitude less of my lunch than any other, even relatively good value. It’s also no less sackable than the chums, cronies, self-publicising do-gooders and 19th Earl of Wherever-on-the-wold in the lords.

    This is basically a discussion about the legitimacy of government and at what level it is legitimate. The more universal a value the higher a level you can have it governed at. Practically everyone agrees that murder is wrong and you aren’t within your rights even on your own property to do it even to a consenting adult. We could probably legislate it globally without putting too many noses out of joint, and even reserve a particularly bleak corner of the Sinai desert as Murderstan where it’s legal and those who want to do it and risk being a victim of it can live without the tyranny of murder laws.

    What side of the road you drive on is likewise not something that is particularly tyrannical – it’s more an accident of history – and the places on the continent on the left found themselves in the minority and gradually changed over. Tyranny by consent?

    You also haven’t answered the objection that it’s a pain in the arse to have to familiarise yourself with thousands of different rules and regulations on your journey. You can avoid Crazytown but you don’t know what Middletown on your alternative route enacted last week. With driving rules it’s irksome enough travelling across a few countries, let alone potentially hundreds.

    The powers of use to tyrants are really powers no government should have at any level, but then there are legitimate complaints about binding hands of democratic governments with the words of dead white men too. Is Brussels telling Portugal and Greece to get their finances in order tyranny? Arguably it is, also arguably it’s just the rules of the game they agreed to play and a good idea in its own right anyway.

  38. I don’t recall advocating a council of technocrats, that’s just talking past me at the straw man.

    It’s not a straw man. That is what is on offer in the real world.

    Anyway, you’re still not getting the point. If a value is really “universal” such as murder, you’ll find that, miraculously, all the separate societies will have laws against it, so that makes your higher level of government redundant. What matters is when societies have different values. What then?

    The higher level becomes a force for homogenisation; of enforcing a single value on everyone. Even when it comes to murder, societies have different opinons on how to respond; different mixtures of punishment and rehabilitation, death penalty or not, should it be retributive? There isn’t a single moral or ethical standard in the world that is homogenous (as I was arguing with SMFS the other day); even when peoples agree that X is bad, they disagree about how bad and what the appropriate response is.

    You also haven’t answered the objection that it’s a pain in the arse to have to familiarise yourself with thousands of different rules and regulations on your journey.

    Because I don’t need to answer the objection; you don’t have a right to expect everyone else to make your life easier as you see it. Freedom and diversity are a pain in the arse to those who want homogenity and conformity (to their own preferences). That’s just life. It isn’t an argument for taking away freedom and autonomy.

    Is Brussels telling Portugal and Greece to get their finances in order tyranny?

    Yes, and of a grotesque kind. Because, besides all else, they aren’t being told to “get heir finances in order”. THey’re being ordered to keep their ruinous interest payments flowing to one of the most powerful factions in your beloved centralised technocracy, the bankers. Who, when their own houses aren’t in order, are just given taxpayers money. Heads they win, tails we lose.

    The deplorable response to the financial crisis is one of the most perfect examples of why transnationalism is a catastrophe.

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