Tag: poor people

The Free Market Can Be Used To Preserve Tradition

Daniel Szewc | Poland

One of the most common mistakes made by political enthusiasts across the political spectrum, is the false notion that traditionalism can only exist and flourish under a market mutilated by many regulations, as well as at least basic forms of state redistribution. To best expose the problem with this idea at large, it’s worth viewing the subject from a broader perspective.

In the most basic sense, value systems compete between each other, and have done so since the beginning of civilization itself. This can be expressed by the fact that societies with good values turn out to out perform and take over societies with lesser values. All is well and fair with this, as long as deceit and force aren’t involved in the process of internal value changes. These occur in cases of revolutions installed by external powers (such as the Bolshevik Revolution, started thanks to German funding of Lenin), or when the tyranny of the majority (i.e democratic rule) takes control of societal values, as well as regulates the market, especially when it comes to the right to discriminate, or through redistribution. For it is because of the last two, that traditionalism has been abandoned in the West. Since tradition is the result of constant rivalry between moral values, and mutual discrimination is the tool by which the power of each competing world view is expressed, not letting competition happen creates a lack of clashes between the two. The older a tradition/value is, (for example the long for truth), the more, according to probability, enemies it had to face in the past, making it more likely to win with new competitors on the market of ideas. A good example of this happening in history, is the high quality of the press in the past, during an era when no failing businesses were saved, which systematically prevented the press from spreading, what we now call “fake news”- if any newspaper decided to publish false information, it would go bankrupt- starting a business was extremely simple in the past, and their market competition would therefore destroy them- not to mention the boycotts of their good, otherwise known as market discrimination.

The other problem causing the fail of traditional values in modern times, is the welfare state. If we look at history, the only people to die of hunger (excluding times of famine, and extremely rare exceptions), were units who were asocial and wouldn’t receive any help, because nobody in society wanted to help them. How much of a bad human being do you have to be, for literally nobody to help you? In contrast, the modern era allows people to completely detach themselves from society, dismiss the idea of having children (why would they, if they’ll get state help when they are old or sick?), and in general become parasites of the system. The same holds for representatives of ALL inferior value systems, and ones that are purely against Western interpretations of personal freedom.

Those who favor tradition often note, from the depths of their hearts, that single mothers and poor people must be helped! There are two problems with this. For one, the innocence attributed to poor people, is the result of poor people, historically having to appeal to society as good, or else nobody would help them. In the case of the help being state organized, and therefore ending the risk of not receiving any help, laziness and egoism may kick in in poor people. The second problem with is, is that the less dangerous a societal position is, (“Oh no! How will I feed my children!”), the less likely people are to fight off becoming part of it.

A typical example of a situation like this is of a man who leaves his woman and children alone, without funds to live. In the past, this meant uncertainty and extreme stress caused by financial risk for the mother, which caused the man to be seen as a monster, and people discriminated against him, because of what tradition would consider to be poor character. Nowadays, even though leaving your family is still frowned upon, people are less sharp against such deeds, as the mother isn’t in a position as bad as she would have been under a free market, which is precisely why more men leave their wives/partners with their children, than ever before.


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No, Jesus Was Not a Socialist

By Ian Brzeski | United States

On countless occasions, I have either seen or heard that Jesus is a socialist. I see it through memes, I hear it through others. It’s complete and utter nonsense.

Let’s spot the differences in these two cases. In the first scenario, let’s say that you are walking down the street and a man comes up to you asking for money. He says that he runs a charity to help out the poor, and you decide to donate because you feel that it would be beneficial towards his cause. In the second scenario, you decide not to give the man any money at all. The man is upset at this and decides to pull out a gun, forcing you to donate to meet the threshold he needs to raise. In both of these scenarios, the man got the desired money and was able to help the poor.

The differences are clear. In the first scenario, you voluntarily gave up your money whereas, in the second, the man coerced you to. Objectively, the way the man acted in the second scenario is immoral, even though he gave the money to the poor.

Now, why is it different when the government takes your money through taxation? The government sets up programs for the poor, asks you for money to help fund the programs, and if you don’t give them your money, they throw you in a rotting cell for the rest of your life. That sounds eerily similar to the second scenario that I presented. The government uses a form of coercion in the same way that the man coerced you. Andrew Lepore writes a fantastic article which really delves into why just because you or somebody else benefits from taxation doesn’t mean that it’s morally justifiable in any way whatsoever.

Now let’s get to why Jesus is not a socialist. First of all, Jesus preaches about helping your neighbor and caring for the sick and the poor. He tells you to spread the Good News. It seems to some that socialists preach the same, but this is simply not true. Jesus never said that you can force somebody else to live by your values.

You should hope that people want to give back to their community or to the poor out of the goodness of their heart. You have every right to tell somebody that they should give to the poor, and to spread Jesus’ message. However, there’s a reason that Jesus never says that it’s okay to force somebody to live by His message. If somebody is going to hoard all their money, then they are well in their right to do so. You cannot, in good moral standing, throw somebody in prison on the premise that they are a subjectively bad person. The only just reason to do so is if they infringe on someone else’s rights. Not giving money to somebody else is not an infringement of their rights.

I urge people to not be that guy. I urge people to live by Jesus’ message even if they don’t believe in his divinity. The majority of people in this world are good. There are plenty of people who will give back to their communities; many celebrities already do. Ellen DeGeneres, for example, loves giving money to people who need it. Whether those people directly need it or are raising awareness for a cause, she will provide. There are plenty of other examples of celebrities giving back to their communities. There are millions of everyday normal people who give money and time to charities and other organizations and may even be incentivized to give more if the government didn’t already steal their money.

Socialism requires the government to use a coercive force to redistribute the wealth among everybody even if the majority of the people did nothing to deserve that money. It is completely immoral as it lines up with the second scenario I presented to an even bigger extreme. When Jesus tells somebody to go out and take care of the sick and the poor, he is saying for you to go out and voluntarily do it, and not to have a governing body force people to do it. If anything, Jesus is way more of a voluntaryist than a socialist, as the latter requires force which he opposed.


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It’s 2018. Why are so many American People Starving?

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

In the modern era, it is difficult to deny that Americans live in a culture of waste. In fact, people do not actually eat most of the food Americans grow. Out of all of the crops that American farmers produce, humans only use a mere 27% for their food. What’s more is the fact that of that 27%, Americans throw away 40% of it.

Wasted Food, but People Starving

So, running the numbers, what does that look like? Combining those two statistics gives a grand total of 16.2%. In other words, we have, without any technological improvements at all, the capability to feed a great deal of people – far more than we do today. Of course, we currently use the rest for bio-fuels such as ethanol, and for feed for farm animals, such as cattle. And, to recall, about 11%, or one ninth, we throw away.

It is inevitable that people will waste some food, and that we will give some of it to animals. Despite this, it also is evident that there are people starving and things society can do about it. As mentioned above, nearly 15% of Americans face a form of food insecurity. Though not all of those with food insecurity are starving, it frankly is trivial. A free society should not tolerate any levels of food insecurity, especially when a portion of those people are truly starving.

Eliminating Waste

Though the sheer number of people starving is an abhorrent statistic, it is not one without a number of identifiable causes and solutions. One of the first, without a doubt, is eliminating waste. If Americans reduced their food waste by only 15%, there would be enough food saved to feed an additional 25 million people.

By splitting this in two, the food could feed 50 million people half of their daily nutritional needs. This would serve as a very useful supplement to those who cannot afford all of the food they need. In fact, it would be enough to give half of the daily food requirements to every American who struggles to put food on the table, plus an extra million. There does not have to be any number of people starving. Those with adequate (and 40% extra) need to be more conscientious.

15% is not a difficult figure to reach. For all of this talk about cutting wasteful spending, why not start in the most important place? Americans could spend 40% less on food, or even better, donate the 40% they aren’t going to eat to a food pantry. In either situation, with just 15% compliance, America could see massive reductions in, if not elimination of, hunger. It isn’t that hard. Someone’s health, or even someone’s life, may depend on it. Make the right decision, America.

The Great McMyth

The prevalence of fast food over supermarket food in lower income communities also perpetuates hunger. Fast food restaurants have a reputation for being cheap meal options, but in reality, this is only true when comparing it to other full service restaurants. In comparison to real food options, fast food is horribly expensive. A McDonald’s Dollar Menu, for example, claims to be a highly affordable way of eating. However, it actually offers nothing for more than 390 calories. So, to satsify the caloric needs of an adult, (2000 and 2500), one would need to spend $5 or $6 a day. This would also entail eating nothing but McDoubles, which obviously is not a healthy way to eat.

Does this sound cheap? Perhaps upon first look, sure, but not on further examination. A family of four would need to spend around $22 a day, or $660 a month, to eat absolutely nothing but the cheapest fast food option available. Multiplying this number by twelve leads to an annual food budget, at the absolute bare minimum (and likely much higher, with fast food choices only) of $7920. Yes, that’s right. A little bit under $8000 a year, which is almost a third of the federal poverty line ($25,100 for a family of four). Families living well below the poverty line may be surrendering half of their income to fast food.

A Better Way

Hope, though, is not lost, for supermarket foods are considerably more affordable, especially for the poor. Looking at some basic staple foods, it appears that each dollar can stretch to many more calories. At a local WalMart, a 16 ounce container of Jif brand peanut butter costs $2.50. That jar contains 14 servings of 190 calories each, for a total of 2,660. All natural, non-GMO wheat bread sells for $1.47 per loaf, and has 1,650 calories. The same store offers five pounds of whole wheat pasta for a mere $7.40. At 8,450 calories, this box, cooked alfredo-style with grated cheese and butter, which also are very cheap, speaking in terms of calorie per dollar, could feed the entire family for dinner for several nights.

Deserts, with One “S”

Though the double “s” counterpart is far more attractive, food deserts are sadly a major issue in America today. A food desert is an area in which people, usually low income, do not have access to affordable, healthy food. Specifically, it means that a large number of low income people live at least 1 mile from a grocery store or supermarket. In rural areas, the area expands to 10 miles.

Currently, 23.5% of Americans live in a food desert. Many of the poor do not have any means of getting beyond this radius to buy the right foods. Instead, they are nearly forced by situation to go to one of many available fast food options, which means that there are people starving that are going to be spending a lot more than they have in order to get back a lot less than they need.

Thankfully, things are looking up for those in food deserts in recent years. In Boston, for example, a food market bus is now serving healthy food to those in food deserts. Moreover, Geisinger, a private healthcare company, provides food to diabetics in food deserts, claiming that the proper food is a type of essential medicine for those with unstable blood sugar. Uber and Lyft also now provide more affordable ways of getting to grocery stores for those without a vehicle.

The Fight Begins with the Individual

However, despite recent improvements, the fight is not over until there are no more people starving. As with many critical issues, one person can truly make a difference.

By spreading this message, by aiding those in food deserts, by donating food, rather than wasting, each of us can make a noticeable change in the world. It’s time to do the right thing for those with little.


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Income Inequality is Real, and That is a Good Thing

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Income inequality exists in the world as a necessary characteristic of money and economics itself. If money is a measurement of the value one brings to the market, naturally there will be differences in income. If that money was inherited or gifted, it still shows a measure of someone’s value preceding the new owner. As a matter of trade, some businesses or individuals will benefit greater than others based on many varying factors and combinations of these factors such as, but not limited to, location, production costs, selling prices, customer service, convenience, and so forth. Sometimes one’s success can equally be based on luck or happenstance in relation to others competing for the same business. No matter the case, markets are naturally unequal, and that is okay.

In a state of nature, resources and abilities are also unequal. Some people live in areas of plenty of clean water, have the right access to metals, good climates for year round agriculture, etc. Some people are also stronger, more attractive, smarter,and work harder.

These are all dependent on either decisions of choice or genetics that play a crucial role giving luck or disadvantage to individuals’ varying situations. How one deals with that given hand is what makes the biggest difference to their success and producing more bringing greater value to them as an individual. So, whether it is in the state of nature producing inequality from one’s genetics and location, or their success and hard work within a marketplace, inequalities will naturally and necessarily exist as a fact of the world and human nature.

In fact, mankind’s nature is that of being poor and destitute. We are not born with strength to survive on our own, we are not born with fur to protect us from the weather, and we are not born with the immediate cognitive ability to take care of ourselves in a world full of danger. We are born into whatever life our parents had prepared before us and are humbly submitted to their care and direction, or to that of whom takes care of us. Humans were not born with a world of comfort, we had to make it, and we continue to work towards making it more comfortable for ourselves individually.

Some people are able to do more than others at progressing out of their given situations. However, just because one person does better does not mean someone else is doing worse because of that success, it simply means the one doing better is, well, doing better. In an economy, this is reflecting the concept that the marketplace and economy, as a whole, is dynamic, not static.

Many of the advocates of combating the so-called “immorality” of income inequality do so based on the model of a static economy. This is likened to a pie, where there is only a limited amount of financial resources, and when one person takes a large slice of the pie, it leaves others with less. In short, the people who believe in a static economy model believe there is a limited amount of capital, labor, and resources.

There is, indeed, a natural limitation of resources such as land, materials, food, etc. Capital and labor, on the other hand, are both nearly innumerable in the right hands, especially when it comes to human capital – that is the human skill set and knowledge one has and is able to teach to others. It is for human capital that most people go to school: to learn, to make more of their reason, and to better their capacity to make do with the world around them.

Because of this ability to learn, retain and spread knowledge, and to do more with what is around, the economy is not static, but rather dynamic. Economies are constantly changing through human capital and trade. They are never static. It is better to see the economy as a constantly growing and shrinking, pulsating, pie where human capital and trade are adding and removing the slices while filling in the empty spaces. The economy expands and contracts, there are booms and busts, fat years and skinny years, all with “winners” and “losers” in trade.

When in competition with one another, there is growth in the marketplace, providing more for people to benefit from and consume. What individuals gain from competition in the marketplace is their ‘fair share’ if it was acquired without coercion. This is the essential part of human flourishing, i.e. capitalism. ‘Capitalism,’ better yet ‘free trade’ or more specifically ‘laissez faire capitalism,’ is the free and voluntary exchange of goods and services.

Capitalism, or whatever is nearing capitalism, has done more for the betterment of humanity than any other system; it is mankind’s greatest creation and strength. Not only does it provide the necessary goods and services most lacking or most desired, but it also enables the exchange of ideas through a ‘marketplace of ideas.’ This means good products, bad products, good ideas, and bad ideas, all competing against one another, so to speak.

Wherever there is competition, the differences in wins and losses are easily recognizable, and this is the actuality of ‘income inequality,’ as it pertains to economics. There are those that consume, those that produce, and those that act in a mix of the two. If one is unsuccessfully producing, producing very little, or producing nothing at all, for purchase in the marketplace, their financial prosperity will tend to dwindle.

Yet, when someone does well, it does not necessarily mean someone else will not also do well in the same marketplace or area. Nevertheless, this ‘competition’ is not for a limited amount of potential capital, or money, it is the competition for what is already there and what can be potentially made. If the market is filled with too much excess of currency, the currency is inflated and worth much less. Money must be earned and exchanged to produce wealth and enrich the marketplace; investments also count as earning income.

Generally speaking financial success requires a few key principles. Among these are capital, taking risks, investing, hard work, patience, diligence, and good business sense. Opportunities arise from ability and effort, along with economic freedom (Don Watkins, Yaron Brook, Equal is Unfair, New York, 2016, 114). In fact, to maintain wealth is rather difficult for individuals and generations of families.

Unlike what capitalism naysayers might believe, the wealthy tend to not stay wealthy, and their accumulated income does not stay within families very long. According to Spanish economist and professor of economics, Dr. Juan Ramon Rallo, “three decades are sufficient to lose almost everything,” and the world’s wealthiest people in the 1980s are no longer on the Forbes list, nor is anyone from their family (Juan Ramon Rallo, Anti-Piketty, 2017, 31-35). So, Rallo points out that the wealthy are not getting wealthier.

No matter the case of idealistic capitalism bringing wealth into fruition in the marketplace, some people do in fact establish and gain wealth through other means. The most significant and obtrusive way some are gaming the system of economics is through the coercive powers of government, e.g. cronyism, rent-seeking, labor unions, coercive monopolies, etc.

As the work of James M. Buchanan and his contribution to political choice theory demonstrates, the vast majority of individuals, in the worlds of public and private sectors, do what benefits themselves the most. This is to say that politicians in the public sector do what will enrich themselves just as much as those in the private sector. Simply taking someone from the business world and putting them into the political world does not remove their horns to produce hallows, nor vice versa. The biggest difference with the political and private sectors is that in the private sector losses are easily felt and remedied; whereas in the political sphere, everyone pays the cost of bad politicians and it usually goes unpunished and without remedy for a very long time.

The marketplace is still providing more for individuals and fighting abject poverty throughout the world by allocating the costs of labor to lower socioeconomic regions of the world. Lower costs for labor help to create the same goods with lower sells prices, while simultaneously helping to relieve the problems associated with extreme poverty.

According to research by Dr. Mark J. Perry at The American Enterprise Institute, a study of home appliances from 1981 to 2013 shows that appliances are “cheaper, better, and more energy efficient” at an increasing rate (Mark J. Perry, AEI, 2015). As for fighting against abject poverty, in 1990 nearly “47% of the world population lived on less than a dollar a day,” and by 2012 only 22% of the world population survived off less than an income of $1.25 per day, which was equivalent to $1 per day in 1990. That is nearly 700 million people pulled out of abject poverty and into better living conditions (Jean-Philippe Delsol, Anti-Piketty, 2017, 8).

This is not to say that people are not still struggling, or that these same people in their given situations can afford the home appliances, but it is a drastic and positive improvement in the quality of life that comes with having an increase in income through nearing free trade market practices.

With marketplace solutions through free trade, more people can be lifted out of poverty. More people see income increases, as has been historically and empirically demonstrated time and time again. Nevertheless, there are still some that are gaining a significant amount through immoral and coercive means with government assistance. It is this, specifically, that I am most concerned with. I am not concerned with vast amounts of wealth being accumulated through peaceful and voluntary means of exchange between consenting people. I am, however, concerned with utilizing governments, specifically within the United States, for coercion over the market, disabling true competition and free trade.


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Facing Poverty Directly, For a Change

By Craig Axford | United States

The UN’s special rapporteur on poverty, Philip Alston, has just issued a blistering report on poverty in the United States. He’s hardly the first to draw attention to this ongoing crisis. Given the lack of political will to do anything about it, he certainly won’t be the last.

Philip Alston’s findings follow a visit he made to the US in December of last year to assess what can only be described as a slow-motion social train wreck that threatens America’s long-term political stability. Included among his findings are some staggering statistics. For example, “the share of households that, while having earnings, also receive nutrition assistance rose from 19.6 percent in 1989 to 31.8 percent in 2015.”

The UN report is relatively short but attempts to use its 20 pages to describe some of the people and places behind the statistics it relies upon. Such efforts to humanize the data have become sadly uncommon within government publications in recent decades.

While we hear a lot about multimillion dollar bonuses and what percentage of wealth the top 1% control, personal stories about the poor and images of their unnecessary suffering are rare. Inequality is often substituted for the word poverty these days, with most of the attention drawn to data that shows how much the wealthy have as opposed to how little the poor are forced to make do with. As a result, it often sounds as though envy rather than justice is the motivation behind calls for change.

But extreme inequality is about far more than just you having more than me or vice versa. “If the only advantage of affluence were the ability to buy yachts, sports cars, and fancy vacations,” the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel writes in the opening pages of What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, “inequalities of income and wealth would not matter very much. But,” Sandel continues, “as money comes to buy more and more — political influence, good medical care, a home in a safe neighborhood rather than a crime-ridden one, access to elite schools rather than failing ones — the distribution of income and wealth looms larger and larger.”

While more and more Americans go to work every day and require public help like Medicaid or nutrition assistance, those with the means to provide for themselves now increasing claim taxes are confiscation. The notion that taxes are a species of theft rather than the price to be paid for a politically stable society that fairly distributes opportunity to the greatest extent practicable is now orthodoxy among conservatives.

Progressives have inadvertently lent credence to the confiscatory view of taxation by focusing so much attention on the top 1% and what their tax rate should be, instead of speaking directly about the struggles so many Americans are experiencing. Indeed, US politicians from across the political spectrum speak relatively rarely about poverty directly, a fact which did not go unnoticed in Philip Alston’s UN report. “One politician remarked to the Special Rapporteur [Alston] on how few campaign appearances most politicians bother to make in overwhelmingly poor districts, which reflects the broader absence of party representation for low-income and working-class voters.”

Obviously, there’s going to be a very strong connection between a society’s priorities and its tax code. But by focusing so much on the gap between the rich and the poor and largely ignoring the actual conditions the poor endure, poverty is distorted into an abstraction. It’s almost as though many politicians think families care more about Bill Gates net worth than they do about putting food on the table and being able to go to the doctor without having to think about bankruptcy.

These days Democrats, in particular, tend to talk as though it’s self-evident that income inequality is the source of most of our greatest social ills, and that a simple adjustment to the minimum wage or increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit will do the trick. But it isn’t obvious to those living in gated communities, nor is solving the systemic problems that give rise to poverty that simple.

The wealthy no longer see poverty directly. Indeed, they’ve intentionally shielded themselves from it. When they do read or hear about the poor the message is often delivered through an ideological filter that casts them as lazy, drug-addled, and criminal. Until the elite are again connected to their communities, any steps taken to close the gap between them and the working class will be grudging and temporary.

The anthropologist Jared Diamond has pointed out that one of the most consistent characteristics found within societies that have experienced collapse has been the segregation of the wealthy from the communities that surround them. He laments the fact that history is by all appearances repeating itself. Writing for ABCScience in 2003, Diamond states that “In much of the rest of the world, rich people live in gated communities and drink bottled water. That’s increasingly the case in Los Angeles where I come from.” Diamond concludes that as a result “wealthy people in much of the world are insulated from the consequences of their actions.”

We’re not going to get the rich or the decision-makers over whom they have so much sway to see the light by reminding them endlessly that they make many times more than the poor. They know that already, and from their current perspective, it looks to them as though they’ve earned every penny.

Those with power and means need to be reminded regularly and directly what the day-to-day lives of people living in poverty are like. We must not be shy about asking those sheltered behind gilded gates what choices they would make on a minimum wage budget. We must insist at every opportunity that they put themselves in the shoes of the people they spend a lot of resources hiding from.

It was precisely this kind of invitation that led Senator Robert Kennedy to leave the safe confines of a Senate hearing room for his 1967 poverty tour. According to University of Mississippi journalism professor Ellen Meacham, “Senator Bobby Kennedy was on the Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Labor, and Poverty, tasked with assessing President Johnson’s policies.” During those hearings “Marian Wright, a 27-year old NAACP lawyer and the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar testified before the committee on behalf of Head Start — a program that had nearly lost its funding. During the hearing, she went off topic and discussed the overwhelming poverty plaguing the South — and invited the senators to it see for themselves.” RFK took her up on that invitation and the rest is history.

We no longer insist our elected officials, let alone the wealthy, visit the homeless to hear their stories. We don’t demand that those charged with making policy visit poor inner city clinics or struggling rural schools. Even philanthropists usually decide where to send their money by reading grant proposals instead of visiting the people their money is supposedly meant to help. We talk like policy wonks and argue as though if only the top 1% took a pay cut poverty would vanish. Most of us may not live in gated communities, but our rhetoric about poverty has become guarded and sterile.

Across both the political and the class divide poverty is now a faceless phenomenon addressed through platitudes, if it is discussed at all. We debate raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, offering additional tax credits, and perhaps closing a few small loopholes without ever looking anyone in the eyes. We either demonize the wealthy or stereotype the poor because its easier for a culture to cope when responsibility can be shared by villains twirling their mustaches and lazy victims who refuse to get a job.

In any case, both the left and right have assuaged their guilty consciences by turning away. That they’ve turned in different directions is of little moral consequence. No one talks of “compassionate conservatism” anymore. There are no longer any Eleanor Roosevelts or RFKs doing tours of poor communities.

Even good policy decisions won’t endure within a culture that refuses to look poverty in the face. Inequality isn’t an injustice because some have too much. It’s an injustice because so many have too little in a land that has enough for everyone with lots to spare. Those people have names, and they know the elite have forgotten what they are.

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