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Elliot Temple on April 8, 2019

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Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking As a Science_

> Every sensible man realizes that the perfection of a mechanical instrument depends to some extent upon the perfection of the tools with which it is made. No carpenter would expect a perfectly smooth board after using a dented or chipped plane. No gasolene engine manufacturer would expect to produce a good motor unless he had the best lathes obtainable to help him turn out his product. No watchmaker would expect to construct a perfectly accurate timepiece unless he had the most delicate and accurate tools to turn out the cogs and screws. Before any specialist produces an instrument he thinks of the tools with which he is to produce it. But men reflect continually on the most complex problems—problems of vital importance to them—and expect to obtain satisfactory solutions, without once giving a thought to the manner in which they go about obtaining those solutions; without a thought to their own mind, the tool which produces those solutions. Surely this deserves at least some systematic consideration.


Anonymous at 5:06 AM on May 20, 2019 | #12443 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

>Most people, when confronted with a problem, immediately acquire an inordinate desire to “read-up” on it. When they get stuck mentally, the first thing such people do is to run to a book. Confess it, have you not often been in a waiting room or a Pullman, noticed people all about you reading, and finding yourself without any reading matter, have you not wished that you had some?—something to “occupy your mind”? And did it ever occur to you that you had within you the power to occupy your mind, and do it more profitably than all those assiduous readers? Briefly, did it ever occur to you to think?


Anonymous at 5:07 AM on May 20, 2019 | #12444 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> I beg no one to get frightened. Science does not necessarily mean test tubes and telescopes. I mean science in its broadest sense; and in this sense it means nothing more than organized knowledge. If we are to find rules and methods of procedure, these methods must come from somewhere—must be based on certain principles—and these principles can come only from close, systematic investigation.


Anonymous at 5:10 AM on May 20, 2019 | #12445 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> MOST of us, at those rare intervals when we think at all, do so in a slipshod sort of way. If we come across a mental difficulty we try to get rid of it in almost any kind of hit or miss manner. Even those few of us who think occasionally for the mere sake of thinking, generally do so without regard for method—indeed, are often unconscious that method could be applied to our thought. But what is meant by method? I may best explain by an example.

> From somewhere or other, a man gets hold of the idea that the proper subjects are not being taught in our schools and colleges. He asks himself what the proper subjects would be. He considers how useless his knowledge of Greek and Latin has been. He decides that these two subjects should be eliminated. Then he thinks how he would have been helped in business by a knowledge of bookkeeping, and he concludes that this subject deserves a place in the curriculum. He has recently received a letter from a college friend containing some errors in spelling. He is convinced that this branch of knowledge is being left in undeserved neglect. Or he is impressed by the spread of unsound theories of money among the poorer classes, and he believes that everybody should receive a thorough course in economics and finance. And so he rambles on, now on this subject, now on that.

> Compare this haphazard, aimless thinking with that of the man of method. This man is confronted with the same general situation as our first thinker, but he makes his problem a different one. He first asks himself what end he has in view. He discovers that he is primarily trying to find out not so much—what subjects should be taught in the schools? as—what knowledge is of most worth? He puts the problem definitely before himself in this latter form. He then sees that the problem—what knowledge is of most worth?, implies that what is desired is not to find what subjects are of worth and what are not, but what is the relative value of subjects. His next step, obviously, is to discover a standard by which the relative value of subjects can be determined; and this, let us say, he finds in the help a knowledge of these subjects gives to complete living. Having decided this, he next classifies in the order of their importance the activities which constitute human life, and follows this by classifying subjects as they prepare for these activities.1

> Needless to say, the results obtained by this thinker will be infinitely more satisfactory than those arrived at by his unsystematic brother. Method, then, is essential.


Anonymous at 6:07 AM on May 20, 2019 | #12446 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> Before starting to solve a question—while deciding, for instance, on the validity of some nice distinction in logic—we should ask ourselves, “What practical difference will it make if I hold one opinion or the other? How will my belief influence my action?”—(using the word “action” in its broadest sense). This may often lead our line of inquiry into more fruitful channels, keep us from making fine but needless distinctions, help us to word our question more relevantly, and lead us to make distinctions where we really need them.


Anonymous at 7:02 AM on May 20, 2019 | #12447 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

Note the similarity to some Popper stuff here regarding the point about observing. This book was published when Popper was 14, so Hazlitt didn't get it from Popper

> Nowhere is the evolutionary method more strikingly seen than in biology. Since Darwin’s great theory was promulgated the science has gone forward by leaps and bounds. We have derived untold benefit from a comparison of man and animals in the light of this hypothesis; even study of the development of individual man has been aided. The discovery of the fact of evolution constituted an incalculable advance, but the method for study which it furnished was of even greater importance.

> I have spoken of the comparison of man and animals “in the light of this (evolutionary) hypothesis.” This brings us to a point which must be kept in mind in practically all observation. We are often exhorted to “observe.” Presumably we are to do this “on general principles.” Such advice is about as foolish as asking us to think on general principles. Imagine for the moment what would happen if you started right now to “observe” as much as you could. You might begin with this book and notice the size of the type, the amount of margin, the quality of the paper, the dimensions of the page, the number of pages. But you have by no means exhausted the number of properties possessed by this book. You must observe that it is also combustible, that it is destructible, that it is machine made, that it is American printed, that it is such and such a price, that it weighs so many ounces, that it is flat, that it is rectangular, that its thickness is so much....

> The absurdity is obvious. If we started out merely to observe, with no definite purpose in mind, we could keep it up forever. And get nowhere. Nine out of every ten observations would never be put to use. We would be sinfully wasting our time. To observe most profitably, just as to think most profitably, we must have a definite purpose. This purpose must be to test the truth of a supposition.


Anonymous at 7:22 AM on May 20, 2019 | #12448 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> In fact, it is only by deep reflection on a subject that we come to realize most of the problems involved. You walk along the road with your friend the botanist and he stops to pick what looks to you to be a common wild flower. “Hm,” he muses, “I wonder how that got in this part of the country?” Now that is no problem to you, simply because you do not happen to know why that particular flower should not be there—and what men do not know about they take for granted. Knowledge furnishes problems, and the discovery of problems itself constitutes an intellectual advance.

> Whenever you are thrashing out a subject, write down every problem, difficulty and objection that occurs to you. When you get what you consider a satisfactory solution, see whether or not it answers all of them.


Anonymous at 10:08 AM on May 20, 2019 | #12449 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> The average man (that mythical creature!) when he has just been confronted with a problem, may wrestle with it with all the vigor of a great thinker. But as he sees difficulties multiplying about him, he gradually becomes more and more discouraged. Finally he throws up the problem in disgust, contenting himself with the reflection that it cannot be solved, or that it will take somebody who knows more than he to solve it.

> A real thinker, however, if confronted with the same problem, will look for a solution from every possible viewpoint. But failing an answer he will not give up. Instead he will let the subject drop for a while, say a couple of weeks or perhaps longer, and then refer to it again. This time he will find that certain obscurities have become a little clearer; that certain questions have been answered. He will again attack his puzzle with energy. And if he does not obtain a complete solution he will once more put it aside, returning to it after another interval, until finally a satisfactory solution presents itself.

> You may fail to see any difference between thinking for two hours separated by two weeks, and thinking for two consecutive hours. As an experiment, then, the next time you come across a puzzle which you fail to solve at first tilt, write down all the unsatisfactory solutions suggested, and all the questions, difficulties and objections met with. You may leave this for a few weeks. When you return to it a few of the difficulties will look less formidable, and some of the questions will have practically answered themselves. (Of course some of the difficulties may look more formidable, and a few new questions may have arisen.) If a solution is not found at the second attempt, the problem may again be sent to your mental waiting room. But if it is only of reasonable difficulty a solution is bound, soon or late, to be discovered.


Anonymous at 5:04 PM on May 20, 2019 | #12451 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

>It is important that we be unprejudiced. It is even more important that our views be definite. And if our definite views are wrong?... But the words of Thomas Huxley on this subject cannot be improved:

>“A great lawyer-statesman and philosopher of a former age—I mean Francis Bacon—said that truth came out of error much more rapidly than it came out of confusion. There is a wonderful truth in that saying. Next to being right in this world, the best of all things is to be clearly and definitely wrong, because you will come out somewhere. If you go buzzing about between right and wrong, vibrating and fluctuating, you come out nowhere; but if you are absolutely and thoroughly and persistently wrong, you must, some of these days, have the extreme good fortune of knocking your head against a fact, and that sets you all straight again.”5


Anonymous at 2:17 AM on May 21, 2019 | #12452 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> One word more on this. There is a type of individual, most often met with among writers, who fears to make a statement of his thought definite, because he has a faint suspicion that it may be wrong. He wishes to allow himself plenty of loopholes to slip out of an intellectual position in case any one should attack it. Hence he never says outright, “Such and such is the case.” Instead, his talk or writing is guarded on all sides by such expressions as “It is probable that,” “it is possible that,” “the facts seem to indicate that”; or “such and such is perhaps the case.” Not satisfied with this he makes his statement less positive by preceding it with an “I believe,” or worse yet, with an “I am inclined to believe.”

> This is often done under the impression that it is something noble, that it signifies broadmindedness, lack of dogmatism, and modesty. It may. If it does, so much the worse for broadmindedness, lack of dogmatism, and modesty. Never yield to the temptation to word your thoughts in this manner. If you truly and firmly believe that “such and such is the case” say “ such and such is the case”; not “it is possible that such and such is the case,” or “such and such is perhaps the case,” or “it is my belief that such and such is the case.” People will assume that it is your belief and not somebody else’s.


Anonymous at 2:19 AM on May 21, 2019 | #12453 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> While no complaint can be made of lack of quantity in what has been written on reading, most of it has not taken up the subject from the proper standpoint; still less has dealt with it in the right manner. There has been counsel galore urging people to read; and recently there has been a great deal of advice on what to read. But comparatively very little has been said on how to read. At one time reading was regarded an untainted virtue, later it was seen that it did us no good unless we read good books, and now there is a dawning consciousness that even if we read good books they will benefit us little unless we read them in the right way.

> But even where this consciousness has been felt, little attempt has been made to solve the problem systematically. Leisurely discourses, pretty aphorisms, and dogmatic rules have been the forms in which the question has been dealt with. Such conflicting adages as “A good book should be read over and over again”; and “The art of reading is the art of skipping,” are not very serviceable. The necessity of some sort of orderly treatment is evident.


Anonymous at 2:31 AM on May 21, 2019 | #12454 | reply | quote

#12452

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_ :

> Next to being right in this world, the best of all things is to be clearly and definitely wrong, because you will come out somewhere.

I think there's something to be said for hedging when you're not sure that an un-hedged version of what you're saying would be correct. Repeatedly being both overconfident and wrong (in light of existing knowledge, not in light of what people discover in the future) is a problem.


Alisa at 8:46 AM on May 21, 2019 | #12456 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> The very fact that you want to study a subject implies that the phenomena with which it deals are not clear to you. You desire to study economics, for instance, because you feel that you do not understand everything you should about the production, distribution and consumption of wealth. In other words, something about these phenomena puzzles you—you have some unsolved problems. Very well. These problems are your materials. Try to solve them.

> “But how can I solve them when I know nothing of economics?”

> Kindly consider what a science is. A science is nothing more than the organized solution of a number of related problems. These problems and their answers have been changed and added to the ages through. But when the science first started there was no literature on it. It originated from the attempts of men to solve those problems which spontaneously occurred to them. Before they started thinking these men knew nothing of the science. The men who came after them availed themselves of the thoughts of those before, and added to these. The whole process has been one of thought added to thought. Yet, in spite of this, people still cling to the belief, even if they do not openly avow it, that we never can make any headway by thinking, but that in order to be educated, or cultured, or to have any knowledge, we must be reading, reading, reading.3

> I almost blush for this elaborate defense. Everybody will admit the necessity for thinking —in the abstract. But how do we regard it in the concrete? When we see a man reading a good book, we think of him as educating himself. When we perceive a man without a book, even though we may happen to know that he is engaged in reflection, we do not look upon him as educating himself, though we may regard him as intelligent. In short, our habitual idea of thought is that it is a process of reviewing what we already know, but not of adding anything to our knowledge. Of course no one would openly avow this opinion, but it is the common acting belief none the less. The objections to thought are inarticulate and half-conscious. I am trying to make them articulate in order to answer them.


Anonymous at 9:07 AM on May 21, 2019 | #12457 | reply | quote

Hazlitt wrote *Thinking as a Science* at age 22

#12457

From *The Wisdom of Henry Hazlitt*:

> In addition to reading, young Henry also devoted some time every day to writing.

Sounds like a wise plan.

> He set out to write a book on a very ambitious subject, *Thinking as a Science*, and before many months had passed, it was finished.

Not bad for just a few months!

> He submitted the book to five publishers, received five rejections, and got discouraged. Then a friend urged him to send it out once more. He did -- and this time it was accepted by the well-known firm of E. P. Dutton & Co. In 1916, at the age of 22, Henry Hazlitt became a published author.

Wow! Hazlitt wrote *Thinking as a Science* when he was only 22.


Alisa at 9:59 AM on May 21, 2019 | #12458 | reply | quote

Hazlitt's published writing consists of ~10M words

#12458

From *The Wisdom of Henry Hazlitt*:

> From age 20, [Hazlitt] wrote something almost every day -- news items, editorials, reviews, articles, columns. By his 70th birthday, he figured he must have written "in total some 10,000 editorials, articles, and columns; some 10,000,000 words! And in print! The verbal equivalent of about 150 average-length books."


Alisa at 10:14 AM on May 21, 2019 | #12459 | reply | quote

Hazlitt & "philosophy first"

From *The Wisdom of Henry Hazlitt*:

> [Hazlitt's] early works were literary and philosophical, his later books largely economic.

Philosophy first. http://curi.us/1572-philosophy-first


Alisa at 10:15 AM on May 21, 2019 | #12460 | reply | quote

Roosh V banned from Twitter for 7 days for tweeting the phrase "tranny freak"

https://gab.com/rooshv/posts/OFdMa2V2N3kxVGZKUThOUXdNL1o1UT09

> My Twitter account has been banned for 7 days for using the phrase "tranny freak".


Anonymous at 12:24 PM on May 21, 2019 | #12461 | reply | quote

Hazlitt liked Hayek's *Road to Serfdom*

From *The Wisdom of Henry Hazlitt*:

> Hazlitt's review, featured on page one of *The [New York] Times*' Book Review Section (September 24, 1944), compared Hayek's *The Road to Serfdom* to John Stuart Mill's *On Liberty*. Hazlitt described it as "one of the most important books of our generation".


Alisa at 12:37 PM on May 21, 2019 | #12462 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> So with reading. When we peruse a book in the usual casual way we do not master it. And when we read a book on the same subject immediately after it, the different viewpoint is liable to cause bewilderment and make us worse off than before the second book was started. We do not like to devote a lot of time to one book, but would rather run through several books in the same time, believing that we thereby gain more ideas. We are just as mistaken as a beginner in swimming who would attempt to learn several strokes before having mastered one well enough to keep afloat.


Anonymous at 1:37 PM on May 21, 2019 | #12463 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> While I believe all the foregoing suggestions are judicious and necessary, I am willing to admit that their wisdom may reasonably be doubted. But there is one practice about which there can be no controversy—that of making sure you thoroughly understand every idea of an author. While most people will not verbally contradict this advice, their actual practice may be a continual contradiction of it. They will be in such haste to finish a book that they will not stop to make sure they really understand the more difficult or obscure passages. Just what they hope to gain it is difficult to say. If they think it is wasting time to try to understand every idea, it is surely a greater waste of time to read an idea without understanding it. To be sure, the difficulty of understanding may be the fault of the author. It may be due to his involved and muddled way of expressing himself. It may be the vagueness of the idea itself. But if anything this is all the greater reason why you should attempt to understand it. It is the only way you can find whether or not the author himself really knew what he was talking about. To understand thoroughly the thought of another does not necessarily mean to sympathize with it; it does not mean to ask how that other came by it. It means merely to substitute as far as possible concrete mental images for the words he uses, and analyze those images to discover to what extent they agree with facts.


Anonymous at 1:45 PM on May 21, 2019 | #12464 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> Another way of reading a book is what I may call the anticipating method. Whenever a writer has started to explain something, or whenever you see that he is about to, stop reading and try to think out the explanation for yourself. Sometimes such thinking will anticipate only a paragraph, at other times an entire chapter. School and college text-books, and in fact formal text-books generally, often contain lists of questions at the end of the chapters. Where you find these, read them before you read the chapter, and where possible try to answer them by your own thinking. This practice will make you understand an explanation much more easily. If your thinking agrees with the author’s explanation it will give you self-confidence. It will make you realize whether or not you understand an explanation. If you were not able to think the thing out for yourself you will appreciate the author’s explanation. If your thinking disagrees with that of the author you will have an opportunity to correct him— or be corrected. In either case your opinion will rest on firmer grounds. Not least of all you will be getting practice in self-thinking.


Anonymous at 1:46 PM on May 21, 2019 | #12465 | reply | quote

#12462 *On Liberty* is indeed an important book:

Mises, in *Liberalism* ("epigone" means "a less distinguished follower or imitator of someone, especially an artist or philosopher"):

> John Stuart Mill is an epigone of classical liberalism and, especially in his later years, under the influence of his wife, full of feeble compromises. He slips slowly into socialism and is the originator of the thoughtless confounding of liberal and socialist ideas that led to the decline of English liberalism and to the undermining of the living standards of the English people. Nevertheless—or perhaps precisely because of this—one must become acquainted with Mill's principal writings:

> Principles of Political Economy (1848)

> On Liberty (1859)

> Utilitarianism. (1862)

> Without a thorough study of Mill it is impossible to understand the events of the last two generations. For Mill is the great advocate of socialism. All the arguments that could be advanced in favor of socialism are elaborated by him with loving care. In comparison with Mill all other socialist writers—even Marx, Engels, and Lassalle—are scarcely of any importance.

Hazlitt ain't Mises or Rand. And even Mises didn't say negative things about Hayek (afaik), only Rand did that (and later Objectivists like Reisman and I).

I've only read a little bit of Mill and do plan to read more.


curi at 1:57 PM on May 21, 2019 | #12466 | reply | quote

https://daringfireball.net/2019/05/good_old_fashioned_macbook_pro_speed_bumps

> Most people waiting for the new Mac Pro think it’s in state #1 or #2, and thus, we’ll get some sort of look at it at WWDC.

The comma after "thus" is wrong and should be deleted.


Anonymous at 3:10 PM on May 21, 2019 | #12468 | reply | quote

Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_

> Practice being the thing needful, it is essential that we put aside a certain amount of time for it. Unless you lay out a definite program, unless you put aside, say, one-half hour every day, for pure downright independent thinking, you will probably neglect to practice at all. One-half hour out of every twenty-four seems little enough. You may think you can fit it in with no trouble. But no matter how shamelessly you have been putting in your time, you have been doing something with it. In order to get in your thirty minutes of thinking, you will have to put aside something which has been habitually taking up a half hour of your day. You cannot expect simply to add thinking to your other activities. Some other activity must be cut down or cut out.1

> You may think me quite lenient in advising only one-half hour a day. You may even go so far as to say that one-half hour a day is not enough. Perhaps it isn’t. But I am particularly anxious to have some of the advice in this book followed. And I greatly fear that if I advised more than a half hour most readers would serenely neglect my advice altogether. After you have been able for a month to devote at least one-half hour a day to thinking, you may then, if you choose, extend the time. But if you attempt to do too much at once, you may find it so inconvenient, if not impracticable, that you may give up attempting altogether. Throughout the book I have constantly kept in mind that I wish my advice followed. I have therefore laid down rules which may reasonably be adhered to by an average human, rules which do not require a hardened asceticism to apply, and rules which have occasionally been followed by the author himself. In this last respect, I flatter myself, the present differs from most books of advice.

> Above all I urge the reader to avoid falling into that habit so prevalent and at the same time so detrimental to character:—acquiescing in advice and not following it. You should view critically every sentence in this book. Wherever you find any advice which you think needless, or which requires unnecessary sacrifice to put into practice, or is wrong, you should so mark it. And you should think out for yourself what would be the best practice to follow. But when you agree with any advice you see here, you should make it your business to follow it. The fact that part of the advice may be wrong is no reason why you should not follow the part that is right.

> Most people honestly intend to follow advice, and actually start to do it, but... They try to practice everything at once. As a result they end by practicing nothing. The secret of practice is to learn thoroughly one thing at a time.

> As already stated, we act according to habit. The only way to break an old habit or to form a new one is to give our whole attention to the process. The new action will soon require less and less attention, until finally we shall do it automatically, without thought—in short, we shall have formed another habit. This accomplished we can turn to still others.


Anonymous at 2:10 AM on May 22, 2019 | #12469 | reply | quote

*Bureaucracy* by Ludwig von Mises:

> Half a century later German liberalism was stone dead. The Kaiser’s Sozialpolitik, the statist system of government interference with business and of aggressive nationalism, had supplanted it. Nobody minded when the Rector of the Imperial University of Strassburg quietly characterized the German system of government thus: “Our officials ... will never tolerate anybody’s wresting the power from their hands, certainly not parliamentary majorities whom we know how to deal with in a masterly way. No kind of rule is endured so easily or accepted so gratefully as that of high-minded and highly educated civil servants. The German State is a State of the supremacy of officialdom—let us hope that it will remain so.”2

Hey it's just like the EU bureaucrats' attitude to voters today


Anonymous at 3:40 AM on May 22, 2019 | #12470 | reply | quote

> #12452

> Henry Hazlitt, _Thinking as a Science_ :

>> Next to being right in this world, the best of all things is to be clearly and definitely wrong, because you will come out somewhere.

> I think there's something to be said for hedging when you're not sure that an un-hedged version of what you're saying would be correct. Repeatedly being both overconfident and wrong (in light of existing knowledge, not in light of what people discover in the future) is a problem.

#12456 what do you think of the following statements:

1. Regarding Question X, I don't know the answer, but my current best guess is Y.

2. Regarding Question X, I think Y is probably true.

Are both hedges? Is one more hedgey than the other?

Btw Hazlitt gives some examples of hedged statements I liked:

>One word more on this. There is a type of individual, most often met with among writers, who fears to make a statement of his thought definite, because he has a faint suspicion that it may be wrong. He wishes to allow himself plenty of loopholes to slip out of an intellectual position in case any one should attack it. Hence he never says outright, “Such and such is the case.” Instead, his talk or writing is guarded on all sides by such expressions as “It is probable that,” “it is possible that,” “the facts seem to indicate that”; or “such and such is perhaps the case.” Not satisfied with this he makes his statement less positive by preceding it with an “I believe,” or worse yet, with an “I am inclined to believe.”

"I am inclined to believe" is pretty close to an expression of Jonah Goldberg's I recall being criticized on vdare (I think it was "I tend to believe" or something like that)


Anonymous at 4:46 AM on May 22, 2019 | #12471 | reply | quote

#12471

> 1. Regarding Question X, I don't know the answer, but my current best guess is Y.

>

> 2. Regarding Question X, I think Y is probably true.

>

> Are both hedges? Is one more hedgey than the other?

I don't really know, but I'd guess that they are both hedges and that they are about equally "hedgey". It's hard to compare them, because the first one uses FI phrasing, and the second one uses anti-FI phrasing (assuming the issue is not a matter of probability).

> "I am inclined to believe" is pretty close to an expression of Jonah Goldberg's I recall being criticized on vdare (I think it was "I tend to believe" or something like that).

I think whether these hedges are good depends in part on whether you're trying to be polemical or whether you're trying to humbly seek the truth.


Alisa at 8:02 AM on May 22, 2019 | #12473 | reply | quote

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