Tyranny in a Sentence

by Don Boudreaux on May 6, 2009

in Politics

Here's one of the scariest lines that I've read in a long, long time.  It's from Michael Copps, Interim Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, uttered back in February:

“If markets cannot produce what society really cares about, like a
media that reflects the true diversity and spirit of our country, then
government has a legitimate role to play."

Mr. Copps apparently can divine "what society really cares about" from his armchair or from his big, tall chairman's seat at the F.C.C.

What Mr. Copps's statement amounts to in practice, of course, is the following:

If market do not produce what I really care about — what I judge to be acceptable — then government under the control of myself and of my friends (or at least of people who think like me) must force suppliers and consumers to behave as I wish them to behave.

(HT Roger Meiners.)

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Chris O'Leary May 6, 2009 at 9:19 pm

The reason that so much of contemporary liberalism scares me is precisely that it is so fixated on what people SHOULD want.

It's scary when the government starts telling people what they should want rather than letting companies (and people) figure out what people actually do want.

I think Obama is going to destroy the U.S. auto industry by forcing them to produce unpopular, and unprofitable, electric cars.

I think the way liberals justify this thinking is that, like Naomi Klein, they overestimate the power of advertising. They assume that advertising has much more power than it actually does. They figure that if companies are free to tell people what they should want, via advertising, then they and/or the government should be as well.

Don Boudreaux May 6, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Chris,

Very nice point about Naomi Klein and advertising!

Don

muirgeo May 6, 2009 at 9:37 pm

That doesn't scare me one bit. Far more scary to me is private media consolidation as we see with a Rupert Murdoch or Silvio Berlusconi.

Some of us believe there are more ways to get what we need then just through private markets. Democracy is a legitimate route much as some think otherwise. It's part of the rules we play by and its the absolute opposite of TYRANNY. Without the government there'd be no private enterprise. The simplistic idea that we live in a black and white , all or none world just isn't useful or pragmatic.

NPR has some of the best programming of any broadcast media. I guess if monopolization and brain washing occurs via private enterprise some how it must be OK.

NPR…TYRANNY…..TYRANNY!!! …Jez

vidyohs May 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Every socialist out there has exactly the same thought vis-a-vis wants of the individual. That is that each individual should want exactly what that socialist wants.

I just love the word should, we should, you should, they should, and if they don't they are obviously anti-social and are ripe for re-education.

BTW, I happen to believe that advertising in our ignorant culture is extremely effective. There is no other explanation for Australian Hair Salad, 1959/60 autos with 12 inch fins on the rear "to increase stablization of course", Obama as president, "an inconvenient" Al Gore, or the war on drugs.

paul May 6, 2009 at 9:45 pm

M, I think you missed the point. The point is that the gov't, unlike the corporate boogeymen you mention, can actually force people, at the point of a gun, to do things. If you don't want to patronize Murdock's businesses, watch other channels. If you don't think it's scary that the gov't should dictate what appears in the media or the market, you don't have a proper appreciation of just how badly things have gone when gov'ts have assumed this type of control. By the way, we don't live in a democracy, but a republic.

Bill Stepp May 6, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Mutatis mutandis, this is what stimulis advocates such as Krugman, DeLong, and other Keynesians/neo-, new-Keynesians think about the parts of the economy that are being shaped (as if there's a part of the economy that isn't!) by the economic doctors in D.C. (the real Sin City) and their willing execu… I mean executors in the "private" sector.
Btw, I see by their blog that Tyler and Alex have made their peace with new Keynesianism. (I haven't read their new textbook, so maybe I'm shooting in the dark here.) I hope I'm not alone in saying I'd be interested in seeing yout thoughts (and Russ's) about that.

Not Sure May 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm

"Without the government there'd be no private enterprise."

That's just silly. Check out California's history, starting around 1849. There was *so much* private enterprise, that region went from a frontier backwater to an offical, shiny brand new state practically overnight as government rushed in to… well- do whatever it is governments do.

floccina May 6, 2009 at 10:07 pm

In the age of the internet why is this relevant in any way? There is more diversity today than ever existed.

MWG May 6, 2009 at 10:15 pm

"Far more scary to me is private media consolidation as we see with a Rupert Murdoch…"
-Muirdog

This is just dumb. Rupert Murdoch has absolutely no power over you. If you don't like Fox News, change the channel. If you don't like the NY Post, pick up the NY Times… but don't FORCE me to pay for NPR.

Justin Bowen May 6, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Democracy is a legitimate route much as some think otherwise. It's part of the rules we play by and its the absolute opposite of TYRANNY.

Hmmmmm.

I thought democracy was simply the tyranny of the majority. I guess I must have missed something somewhere.

Chris O'Leary May 6, 2009 at 10:44 pm

"Without the government there'd be no private enterprise."

ROTFL.

Stop it, you're killing me.

Chris O'Leary May 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm

"Very nice point about Naomi Klein and advertising!"

This all goes in line with the arrogance of the Liberal and the Philosopher King illusion.

Liberals tend to think that they are smarter than average and, while they aren't personally affected by advertising, they assume most ordinary people are (because they aren't as sophisticated as the Liberal).

I think it's called the Above Average Effect in Communication.

K Ackermann May 6, 2009 at 11:26 pm

McDonald's could start showing graphic ad's for a new product called McShit-on-a-Stick and 100 million people would rush out to try it.

Ch Ch Ch Chia.

Chris O'Leary May 6, 2009 at 11:43 pm

"McDonald's could start showing graphic ad's for a new product called McShit-on-a-Stick and 100 million people would rush out to try it."

100 million people that you clearly think you are smarter than.

"Ch Ch Ch Chia."

Advertising CAN let people know that a product exists, but it CAN'T manipulate people into buying it.

Believe it or not, some people think the Chia Pet is neat.

Jeremy May 6, 2009 at 11:56 pm

How about this jewel, from a professor at U Penn's The Wharton School:

http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2197

Read about a 3rd of the way down the page, where said professor begins expounding the virtues of turning the FCC into an "economic stimulus agency." Warning: Not for those with sensitive gag reflexes.

Jim Davidson May 7, 2009 at 1:15 am

Wait, where did I hear of this before?

Insolence…of office? The oppressor’s wrong, the law’s delay, and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes.

Yep, that's the stuff. Some guy who has some office said something arrogant and despicable. Film at eleven. lol

BoscoH May 7, 2009 at 1:44 am

You broke rule #1, Chris. You've actually made (minimal) sense out of something Naomi Klein wrote.

muirgeo May 7, 2009 at 2:02 am

This is just dumb. Rupert Murdoch has absolutely no power over you. If you don't like Fox News, change the channel. If you don't like the NY Post, pick up the NY Times… but don't FORCE me to pay for NPR.

Posted by: MWG

Baloney. We went to a war in good part to their media hype and it's costing my kids dearly in taxes they will have to pay. And I can't get a cable contract that excludes Fox.

Gil May 7, 2009 at 2:08 am

Gadzooks! Isn't obvious that the logical extension of Libertarian thought is the anarcho-Capitalist society?

How does government know what the right sort of national defence is correct? Or what the correct solution to the problem of crime? Why can't people decide for themselves and come up solution that don't mimic the government include DIY self-defence in the home or voluntary militias instead of a standing army?

brotio May 7, 2009 at 2:44 am

Yasafi strikes again!

From a post of mine on the Hocus Pocus thread:

I can not think of one instance where he defended liberty if it collided with the best interests of the State, and Yasafi has never sided with free enterprise versus the State.

Posted by: brotio | May 2, 2009 3:29:16 AM

Here we are, discussing a federal agent's desire for Pravda, because too many people are criticizing Stalin Obama, and, right on cue, Yasafi shows up to belittle liberty and defend the best interests of government.

brotio May 7, 2009 at 3:01 am

"And I can't get a cable contract that excludes Fox." – Yasafi

And I can't get rid of MSNBC. You know, that cable channel with Keith Olbermann? The one person on the planet that may be dumber than you? Hell, I can't even get rid of CNN. It's staffed with people who are only as dumb as Biden. Not quite in your league, but still plenty stooopid.

Crusader May 7, 2009 at 3:41 am

I call bullshit on muirduck's "asseration" that Fox News caused the American people to give GW Bush a blank check on Iraq.

Crusader May 7, 2009 at 3:42 am

During the run-up to the war, there was incessant coverage on MSNBC, CNN, Reuters, AP, NPR, etc…. To say that Fox News single-handedly brainwashed the American people is the height of arrogance and deception. Muirduck, you are NOT going to get away with another lie!

nexalacer May 7, 2009 at 3:48 am

Baloney. We went to a war in good part to their media hype and it's costing my kids dearly in taxes they will have to pay. And I can't get a cable contract that excludes Fox.

Posted by muirgeo

Of course you can't. The guns of the state are pointed at the cable companies as well. They make judgements about what they can and can't offer based on the conditions of an industry that is completely under the gun of regulation.

Of course, in a free society, you could just open a cable provider that offered contracts that didn't include Murdoch's stations, but since he's just as willing to use the guns of the state to support his business as Ted Turner is to support his, we have the current situation.

Until people stop using guns to solve social problems, there will be tyranny.

Don Boudreaux May 7, 2009 at 6:04 am

Small point: The notion that "we" went to war in Iraq because of media hype about the necessity for doing so is infantile on many counts.

First, which media? Not all media outlets endorsed the war — many opposed it from the start — and even those that whooped it up for the war are not all, or even mostly, owned by Rupert Murdoch (as some persons insinuate). Remember, the Wall Street Journal wasn't purchased by Murdoch until 2007, but that paper had long supported Bush's military polices (very mistakenly, in my view).

Second, as for Murdoch, it is only under his ownership that the editorial page of the WSJ hired Thomas Frank as columnist (and began running a greater number of op-eds in opposition to that editorial-page's well-known conservative free-market positions.

Third, and most importantly, governments go to war. Anyone who supports powerful government supports an institution that makes war right handily. And if the private media can so easily push such a fearsome agency to wage unjustified war, why should this same fearsome agency be trusted to act responsibly on other fronts? For example, why should we not then suspect that Uncle Sam is moving toward greater government provision of health-care because it is being inappropriately pushed to do so by the likes of big media such as the NY Times and CBS?

Superheater May 7, 2009 at 8:05 am

"I think the way liberals justify this thinking is that, like Naomi Klein, they overestimate the power of advertising."

NK is not a "liberal". She is an elitist, a statist or a facist, but bears no resemblance to any of the great thinkers of the past. Calling her or her ilk “liberal”only makes the word meaningless.

If society is overly prone to advertising, she’s a prime example, because she's recognized as the product of advertising-an opinionated screwball and ignored.

Why anybody cares about the rantings of a spoiled brat who thinks the world should conform to her way of thinking is beyond me. Please stop referencing her. There’s nothing particularly unique in her thoughts, the b***ching about advertising is the dame drivel we got from “The New Industrial State”.

By the way, I suggest that libertarians who think there’s a better alignment of values with the left-look at how the left behaves when it has power. I wonder how long it will be before the Obama youth are ransacking bookstores to remove offensive tomes like Atlas Shrugged, 1984 or Brave New World.

Superheater May 7, 2009 at 8:07 am

she’s a prime example, because she's recognized as the product of advertising-an opinionated screwball and ignored.

THat should be she should be ignored!

Yann (from France) May 7, 2009 at 8:22 am

Your post reminds me this quotation:
"What most people really object to when they object to a free market is that it is so hard for them to shape it to their own will. The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want. At the bottom of many criticisms of the market economy is really lack of belief in freedom itself."
Milton Friedman, May 1961

I_am_a_lead_pencil May 7, 2009 at 8:56 am

Yann – That's a beautiful quote.

muirgeo, you said:

Democracy is a legitimate route much as some think otherwise. It's part of the rules we play by and its the absolute opposite of TYRANNY.

"Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one's government is not necessarily to secure freedom."
– F.A. Hayek

The simplistic idea that we live in a black and white , all or none world just isn't useful or pragmatic.

What is simplistic is the idea that government intrusion into the media (through some FCC commissar) will "produce what society really cares about" at all.

It will just as likely result in a greater proliferation of private counter-media (even more internet resources such as blogs and news sites) to provide the public what they really "care about". Preferences are 'sticky'….and substitutes will proliferate.

Gil May 7, 2009 at 9:05 am

"Why anybody cares about the rantings of a spoiled brat who thinks the world should conform to her way of thinking is beyond me." – Superheater

Gee could that apply to every one of the world's 6.5 billion+ people? I believe everyone has their own worldview and think it'd be nice if everyone else thought they way they did.

Talking of quotes:

"Let him who would move the world, first move himself." – Socrates

muirgeo May 7, 2009 at 9:05 am

Here we are, discussing a federal agent's desire for Pravda, ……

Posted by: brotio

Well right there you are wrong. If anything he is looking to create media diversity. Having local news owned by non-local mega-syndicates is NOT a good way to set up the media. Its a way to have it controlled by fewer sources which is a bad thing if its government run or privately run.

I know you all think rules are always bad but they make the game better not worse.

muirgeo May 7, 2009 at 9:10 am

Third, and most importantly, governments go to war.

Posted by: Don Boudreaux

Yeah but when conglomerates like GE/NBC sell news and weapons you have a problem.

muirgeo May 7, 2009 at 9:16 am

The market gives people what the people want instead of what other people think they ought to want. At the bottom of many criticisms of the market economy is really lack of belief in freedom itself."
Milton Friedman, May 1961
Posted by: Yann

Baloney! The unfettered market concentrates power and control and monopolizes workers and production.

It is NOT in the interest of the overwhelming majority of peoples of a given society to have an unfettered and unruled market. Likewise unregulated markets are inefficient. Both those reason are why unfettered markets no longer exist.

The trend in newspaper deregulation and mega-corp media monopolies is just more real world evidence of the same.

Back in the day every town had 2 newspapers and the public was much better served. Unregulated market forces have destroyed that.

geoih May 7, 2009 at 9:24 am

Quote from muirgeo: "Having local news owned by non-local mega-syndicates is NOT a good way to set up the media. Its a way to have it controlled by fewer sources which is a bad thing if its government run or privately run."

You mean like NPR?

Veritas May 7, 2009 at 9:24 am

Aren't newspapers dying?

I can't remember the last time I picked up a copy, except to read high school sports.

Hammer May 7, 2009 at 9:36 am

"Most men do not want freedom, but rather fair masters." – Sallust

Except for the "fair" part, I would say that describes Dr Duck pretty well, as well as the intended targets.

vidyohs May 7, 2009 at 9:51 am

muirduck,

"I know you all think rules are always bad but they make the game better not worse.

Posted by: muirgeo | May 7, 2009 9:05:49 AM"

You were educated in Kleinesque halftruths and lies, and you haven't the intellectual ability to overcome that with intelligent observation as you grow.

Every intelligent commenter here knows that rules can make the game better, but what we were able to learn over our years is what you missed totally: First, there is the question of how much rule, and rules made by whom? Second, and most important, is rules once made, then interpreted and applied by who? Who does the interpreting and enforcement is the most critical part of the "living by rules" process.

Your problem in not understanding even the most elemental things is that there is just not enough room in a teacup Chihuahua's head for a brain of even insignificance. Stay up on the porch and stop interfering with the activities of your betters.

vidyohs May 7, 2009 at 10:04 am

muirduck,

To expand on the theme of my last comment, I spent years as an IAABO member, qualified to officiate HS Basketball (Intl rules as well) and baseball.

From experience in the trenches, as a player and an official (anyone else on this blog with such experience can back me up), a poor official trying to enforce his poor understanding of the rules can make the game infinitely worse, not better. Worse to the point that frequent combat (chaos) erupts on the court or field.

I retired from officiating when I came back to the states in 1979, one year in the Utah officials organization and working with guys that had their whistles due to being "good old boys" instead of trained officials was enough for me.

As I said above, your little teacup Chihuahua brain can't make that simple real life observation about sports, games, and then extrapolate the wisdom to the game of politics as a valid base of comparison.

Representatives make extremely poor rules makers. The fewer the representatives making the rules for the greater population (see Art 1, sec 5, para 2 of the Const. – allows the committee system) makes the rules process even worse. Top that with the dominant rules makers being communist/socialist koolaid drinkers and the resultant rules become even more restrictive and inflammatory. Add to that a government full of bureaucratic rules interpreters and enforcers and any intelligent creature on the planet will tell you that GOVERNMENT SUCKS when involved in any part of the rules making, interpretation, and enforcing process.

muirduck, in my life I have known of few, so very few, people with so little imagination as you. And, imagaination is the measure of intelligence, with little imagination there is little intelligence, with no imagination there is no intelligence.

You, my little puppy, have none.

yet another Dave May 7, 2009 at 10:13 am

I believe everyone has their own worldview and think it'd be nice if everyone else thought they way they did.

You're completely wrong about me and lots of people I know. What a boring place the world would be if everybody thought the way I do.

I just wish our government would respect the rule of law and limit itself to its constitutionally defined role. If we desire to expand that role, we have a mechanism in place to do so. We could still get bad results, but at least the process allows for vigorous debate.

Windmill Tilter May 7, 2009 at 10:14 am

I think Muirgeo should consider something Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for and that Coyote has mentioned more than once … in a world without trade, each community would have access to fewer of its own goods/services, but in terms of what is available globally, choice would expand – and this is particularly true in media.

And this needs to be repeated from the rooftops …

"The unfettered market concentrates power and control and monopolizes workers and production."

Because it is so utterly contrary to what happens in unfettered markets. How many of the largest 100 companies in 1900 are still in existence today? Unfettered means others are free to compete. The only way that power can be concentrated as you say is when corporate interests are wedded to the guns of the government – you criticize the modern corporate state that you have been instrumental in creating.

Are you arguing that the world is characterized by natural monopolies and decreasing average costs over the feasible range of production, so that every enterprise is optimally sized at infinity? That claim is so utterly ludicrous … but even if true, where do you think the "power" to reduce the size of such things comes from, if that is in fact what you want.

But why can you not turn your eye on the hypocrisy of your statement? Others have pointed it out to you, and I will do so again.

"The unfettered government concentrates power and control and monopolizes workers and production."

Sounds like a more appropriate way to put it.

muirgeo May 7, 2009 at 10:29 am

You mean like NPR?

Posted by: geoih

NPR has local affiliates (mostly member supported) and it doesn't crowd out private stations or buy them out… it complements them. Thanks for playing…. Try again.

Seth May 7, 2009 at 10:32 am

"The unfettered market concentrates power and control and monopolizes workers and production." -muirgeo

Letting people exercise freedom to make decisions does not concentrate power, unless people willingly give up that freedom. Repressing the freedom to choose also concentrates power.

Willingness is an overlooked fetter in the worldviews of opponents to freedom such as muirgeo.

muirgeo May 7, 2009 at 10:34 am

"Most men do not want freedom, but rather fair masters." – Sallust

Except for the "fair" part, I would say that describes Dr Duck pretty well, as well as the intended targets.

Posted by: Hammer

I fear masters created by uncontrolled private monopolies that history shows your philosophy will create with no room for doubt. I suggest you are the ones who are complacent with them masters.

Politicians are to be mastered by the people not corporations. When we truly achieve that I will not fear politicians. But most certainly, no masters and no gods for me but it doesn't have to be anarchy.

If politicians are masters it simply means we have asserted our authority over them.

muirgeo May 7, 2009 at 10:45 am

"The only way that power can be concentrated as you say is when corporate interests are wedded to the guns of the government – you criticize the modern corporate state that you have been instrumental in creating."

and

""The unfettered government concentrates power and control and monopolizes workers and production."

Sounds like a more appropriate way to put it."

Posted by: Windmill Tilter
Windmill Tilter

I agree. But I am not the one defending corporate personhood. I am not the one defending the current state of lobbying and campaign finance. I AM the one stating we need to have politicians who fear the people as their masters and out not owned by multinational corporations.

The power flows from money to government. But the government didn't lobby for corporate personhood… and the government didn't lobby to turn over Glass -Steagall. Private enterprise and Jp Morgan pushed the Fed on us ect ect…

A government that is accountable to the people will not have unfettered power. It's a chicken or the egg problem and you guys are arguing the Chicken came first when its obvious it was the egg.

MnM May 7, 2009 at 11:01 am

Having local news owned by non-local mega-syndicates is NOT a good way to set up the media.

So set up a media outlet and show 'em how it's done.

Methinks May 7, 2009 at 11:03 am

"Most men do not want freedom, but rather fair masters." – Sallust

Except for the "fair" part, I would say that describes Dr Duck pretty well, as well as the intended targets.

Yes, it does. Muirdiot is a dog without a master and he's looking for a nice one that will not kick him and will pet him by the fire at night. Of course, he doesn't have enough brain cells to care about the other dogs that his master is kicking and doesn't realize that masters change and the new master may and usually will start kicking him.

yet another Dave May 7, 2009 at 11:06 am

A government that is accountable to the people will not have unfettered power.
muirgeo – That is a delusional utopian fantasy. In the real world, with real people, your utopian fantasy will never exist. Perhaps you are unable or unwilling to comprehend this obvious simple truth, but the recommendations you continue to make will only worsen the problem.

Believe it or not, many here agree that the corporatist state is a problem that needs to be solved. Many of us are not foolish enough to believe in utopian fantasies that are incompatible with human nature.

Elisheva Levin May 7, 2009 at 11:08 am

"Politicians are to be mastered by the people not corporations. When we truly achieve that I will not fear politicians. But most certainly, no masters and no gods for me but it doesn't have to be anarchy."
-muirgeo

The reason that corporations have so much power is that government regulates their activitites, so that those corporations with the most pull in Washington can then regulate their competition into oblivion. Further, the favored corporations then employ lobbyists (Ayn Rand called them 'pull-peddlers") to consolidate their power. This has developed into the goverment-corporation complex that now would like to rule us, and is fair on the way to doing so.

To set goverment control/corporate toadying against anarchy is a false dichotomy. There is another option: liberty and the rule of law.

Definition of terms:
Liberty means here an individual right inherent in the human being, meaning that government exists ONLY to protect individual rights.
Rule of Law means laws that are based on natural rights, known in advance, adjudicated without respect to persons, and applied fairly.

"If politicians are masters it simply means we have asserted our authority over them."
muirgeo.

I beg to differ. If we have asserted our authority over them, then we are masters and the pols (may the Eternal bless and keep the pols few in number and far away from us) are our servants. And servants do not tell the masters what they "should" want or do.

Frankly, I see this whole attack on talk-radio as an attempt to destroy it. I want to listen to what I want to listen to. If broadcast media does not supply what I want, I will simply stop listening.
I suspect when that happens, the Progressives will decide that we "should" talk about only certain topics on the Internet. Then the same will happen–most of us will stop using it. Me, I'll just read more books.

Will the Progressives then censor books?
Will we see government sponsored book burnings in the public square?

It can happen here.

muirgeo May 7, 2009 at 11:10 am

Methinks,

Are you smarter than Nassim Taleb?

LowcountryJoe May 7, 2009 at 11:17 am

>>Baloney. We went to a war in good part to their media hype…<<

Baloney? You mean to say that we CANNOT change the channel. Oh, and we went to war because the 'domestic plurality' that you enjoy most of the time, authorized the use of force. If you doubt this, then may I suggest you look up the Public Law 107-243. And while you're at it, see how the legislators voted on that one, Sport. The war had nothing to do with systematic reneging on the cease-fire agreements of 1991 or the numerous UN Security Council resolutions that Iraq was in material breach of: nope, it was the media hype of Fox News.

>>…it's costing my kids dearly in taxes they will have to pay.<<

You have children? I hope you're referring to the patients you see otherwise there's going to be too much that your children will have to unlearn in life — I do't think any kind of education system could pull that off.

>>And I can't get a cable contract that excludes Fox.<<

I'm not buying this comment for a second: as if you'd really deny yourself an opportunity to watch a news channel that you disagree with. You probably watch those two populist assholes Hannity and O'Reilly every evening just so you can write your stupid response e-mail that is just as off-topic as the lazy-assed crap you submit here. I honestly believe that you're unhinged and as unstable as the fissures of a receding glacier over a patch of 5000 year old vegetation.

>>If politicians are masters it simply means we have asserted our authority over them.<<

No way! You didn't. You couldn't have. Please tell us that you ommitted a word or suffered from a period of extreme stupidity that causes your normal level of stupidity to pale in comparison. This is even worse than the one you wrote about your ideas leading to even more liberty and freedom than our ideas would.

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