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-   -   This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury) (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=6973)

harkin 08-17-2011 08:39 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by aajax (Post 222166)
These guys were so bummed out in this dv. I think McWhorter and Loury need to have a moratorium on discussion of Obama until Obama does something really good. For their sake, and ours.

You have got to be kidding me. This site is best served when people from all walks of life and political leanings discuss reality. I want to hear what John and Glenn have to say whatever happens down the road. Both are intelligent men who present their views with (IMO) thought, passion and honesty. I disagree with much that they say but when you can't learn from someone you disagree with, it's time to just pack it in and condemn your political opponents as terrorists.

Ocean 08-17-2011 08:40 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ledocs (Post 222104)
You have to define equilibrium.

The idea that equilibrium could occur at any arbitrary intersection of two curves, one measuring income to capital and the other measuring income to labor, seems very far-fetched. There may be no ideal solution, but surely there is some fairly narrow range for equilibrium, once you've defined it (e.g. everyone who wants to work is working), given any level of technology. That is, one would not expect it to be the case that 99% of income could go to capital and 1% to labor and that that would satisfy some definition of equilibrium. Secondly, in the world in which we currently live, labor is not ever going to be scarce, and therefore capital is always going to be the scarcer of the two inputs. Particular kinds of labor might be scarce.

The problem of our world is a superabundance of labor. There are too many people. If equilibrium means the market-clearing price for labor where all the police and military power is in the hands of capital, it will follow that the equilibrium price of labor is low, because the supply of labor is high. The price of labor will be so low that the world becomes highly unstable and in an inherently revolutionary situation. The capitalist class will be in a permanent state of siege. But this is not far from where we are now, as noted by Nouriel Roubini in his interview with "The Wall Street Journal" cited by florian in "The Marx was Right" topic in the "Life, the Universe, and Everything" section of these forums. One might think that the equilibrium price of labor could be made so low that the supply of labor would gradually dwindle due to malnutrition and poverty and that the market will be self-correcting in that way. "Operative" recently stated a view that was not unlike this. Things do not seem to be working out this way.

ledocs, with my limited understanding of economics, your statement above and Florian's ("The question confronting capitalism, now as always, is the distribution of "surplus value" resulting from technological progress, between two basically antagonistic groups---the owners of capital and everyone else---so that capitalism can avoid the fate predicted by Marx.") make sense to me.

Do you have a sense that this is limited to developed countries, the US only or is it worldwide? Also, even if it is limited to the developed world, would there be some kind of reset needed? How would that affect the rest of the world?

I'm just wondering if these are topics that are being discussed in the world of economics.

miceelf 08-17-2011 11:21 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by harkin (Post 222203)
And you must not be a typical Nation reader (I'm not either but most know that) if you aren't itching to organize a flash mob.

Well, given that neither of us are typical Nation readers, I am not sure how either of us would know. But you were right about the Nation mailer. So kudos.

I am still not clear on how this is any more incongruous than the Weekly Standard cruise with the neocons, but then I won't be going on either one.

Cruises are for spending time with people you love, not people you agree with.

T.G.G.P 08-17-2011 11:40 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Lot of talk about the mighty power of rhetoric, shouldn't a social scientist like Glenn cite some poli-sci?

Where is the source for the "class traitor" claim? I have only heard the phrase used by F.D.R's supporters.

A defense of Obama in comparison to FDR.

Huey Long is denounced often, sometimes as a fascist, but he was actually a racially progressive politician and denounced by Klansmen for it.

Is there any evidence the arrangement Glenn mentions where civil rights law enforcement led to black employment in large bureaucratic entities in major entities led to less rioting? The riots of the 60s/70s tended to occur in relatively "progressive" cities, not the Jim Crow south.

I have been reading that police-civilian relationships have improved a lot on Los Angeles. But I read Radley Balko and know there's still plenty of terrible behavior among cops that goes unpunished.

The police shooting in London is generally regarded as a sort of pretext. It's not smart to bet against a spark ever happening. Though I am also not predicting riots.

The inability to foresee sudden changes is a big part of Timur Kuran's "Private Truths, Public Lies". I used that metaphor above because one of his foundational papers is "Sparks and Prairie Fires".

I'm going to pushback against Glenn's pushback. There's plenty of bad social policy and I can understand collectively blaming voters (or even non-voters like me for doing nothing), but can he give examples of polities that have successfully carried out social policies which ameliorated marginalization to the extent that they did not suffer from such misbehavior? He has brought up the somewhat racial aspect of disturbances in London, so again I'll link to this abstract comparing relative incarceration rates in different countries. None of them comes up looking enviable. Perhaps there's something better outside the common law tradition, but I'm not aware of it.

"Perhaps if there is no justice, there ought not be any peace". The utilitarian in me accuses you of blasphemy. I could also throw around a phrase like "objectively pro-war". His later follow ups indicate a sort of non-violent reaction, so I take that back.

Why would people go flashmobbing? Maybe it's fun, which is why even friends like to fight. "Knockout game" is a "game" after all. I don't think McWhorter is nearly as good at inhabiting other's heads as he thinks.

"This evidence free speculation about what people are thinking is unsettling me"
HUZZAH! Glenn brought me down a little as described in my first paragraph, but this exemplifies why he's great. That's a statement that should be said to pundits ALL THE TIME.

Put kids in a cop-centric meeting and they'll talk about cops. The priming effect is pretty well known.

I'm a fairly young white guy who rides his bike on Chicago sidewalks (not terribly far from the loop) and don't get a glance from the cops, though other bicyclists have informed me of my mad etiquette. So perhaps evidence of profiling there.

miceelf 08-18-2011 12:30 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
In terms of the links between poor conditions and the kinds of mob action that Glenn and John were discussing, it seems to me that they focused too much on conditions as activating forces. Incident X happens, and then in anger people riot. I agree with them that this is not likely.

However, what I always worry about is more the disinhibition that comes from not having a great deal to lose. In the scenario in which large numbers of people don't feel that they have a future per se, it's less about anger than it is about the fact that one's life isn't going to suck a whole lot more if one is arrested or whathave you.

The occasions late at night when I would find myself as one of two passengers on a subway car, I always kind of wondered about the other person how disaffected they were, not how angry they were.

Florian 08-18-2011 04:09 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Jay J (Post 222155)
........in order for Marx's critique to go through, it has to be that capitalism isn't sustainable *from a purely economic standpoint.* In other words, the eventual lack of demand of capitalist economies is due to internal contradictions, namely that workers can't simultaneously buy back the products they create while owners make a profit, and labor saving technology puts this problem front and center. Now, the Bastille storming story can still make one sympathetic to leftism, (or maybe on the flip side authoritarianism), but it doesn't come across to me as Marxist.

Thoughts?

I am not an expert on Marx, I read him a long time ago, and when I read him I was immunized by liberal economists and scholars like Aron and Schumpeter against his arguments for the inevitable self-destruction of capitalism and the advent of socialism, i.e. the expropriation of the means of production by the proletariat and the "withering away of the state".

But the problem you identify above in the bolded sentence is real. It is the problem that Kojčve, somewhat facetiously, thought that Henry Ford, "the greatest Marxist of the 20th century," had solved by paying workers generous enough salaries to allow them to buy the cars which their labor produces. If capitalists forgo some of their profits, returning "surplus value" (profit) to labor in the form of higher wages, capitalism will, according to Kojčve, avoid the fate predicted for it by Marx: the replacement of living labor (variable capital in Marxist terminology) by labor-saving devices (fixed capital), a necessity forced on capitalists by competition and ever diminishing profits. This is why capitalism is doomed, according to Marx. Beyond a certain point it can only generate further profits by lowering labor costs, and this means employing fewer and fewer workers or lowering their wages. (One might add today: by offshoring labor costs to third world countries). In any case, the result is the same: Overcapacity and underconsumption.

There are other mechanisms, however, to redistribute surplus value besides raising the wages of workers: higher taxes on capital and capital gains. But shhhhhh, that is socialism!

Florian 08-18-2011 06:10 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ledocs (Post 222117)
Florian, I don't know if you have figured this out, but I became interested in Leo Strauss and Kojeve, and their debate in "On Tyranny," when I was about twenty. That did not work out for me, ultimately, as an academic career path, and I actually had a brief discussion with Bernard Williams about this once. But I did study with this fellow Stanley Rosen, who studied with both Strauss and Kojeve.

This might interest you. Stanley Rosen "remembers" Kojčve:

http://editions.bnf.fr/pdf/telecharger/Kojeve.pdf

Rosen comes across as a bit, shall we say, bizarre. But Straussians often do.

jimM47 08-18-2011 02:23 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Jay J (Post 222139)
you replied "No doubt." But since your reply struck me as noticeably different from Florian's, I thought I would go to you. Is it different?

As I see it, Florian made a factual statement that I think is true (perhaps only in a technical sense, but still in an important technical sense), but which I think is true for different reasons, and is best understood in the context and detail I put forward.

I suspect the key distinction that separates the positions Florian and I are articulating is this: As I read him, Florian regards it as necessary for the sustainability of a capitalist economy that workers be able to purchase the consumer good that the society is capable of producing. As you paraphrase him: "[if] owners ... continually suck[] money from labor ... demand will dry up." Or as he says, "if capitalism produces far more goods and services than workers can afford to buy because they are underpaid, there is a big problem."

I think this is looking at only part of the story. Consumption by consumers, or laborers, is not the sum total of consumption in a society, and demand does not dry up permanently simply because that component of demand is missing. It can dry up temporarily, but it can also dry up for any change. It might be morally wrong for certain distributions of income to exist, but it is not economically self-destructive for the return on capital to increase relative to the return on raw labor.

Imagine that you and a hundred other people get shipwrecked on a deserted island. The island has resources, but you have no provisions other than what you can gather. Oh, and this isn't a tropical island, so you'd better be ready when winter comes. I venture to say that you would all be doing quite a lot of work, and be doing very little "buying back the product." You're probably going to be consuming at a subsistence level, while trying to build up the resources of the group for future survival, and you're going to be making tools and other things that will make your future existence more pleasant. In other words, you'll be deferring consumption in order to build up capital, which is presently very scarce.

But imagine one of you does have a lot of capital. One of you is a doctor, which means she has a whole lot of human capital! (Sure the rest of you had training and education, too, but for most of you that capital took a precipitous decline the moment you were wrecked on this island.) I venture to say that the doctor might have to do considerably less work, and considerably easier work, while still getting a pretty good share of the productive efforts of the islandfolk. Who is gonna be the one to say "you don't deserve that" and risk not getting treatment. Now, the doctor has a monopoly here, but even if there are more people and two competing doctors, I suspect their services are still going to get a higher return than those of the accountant-turned-woodchopper. The market is saying "we need the next doctor more than we need the next woodchopper."

Of course, a difference between this hypothetical and the real world is that in the real world this would give an incentive to create more doctors. Doctoring skill capital would become less scarce, and its owners could thus extract a smaller share of the surplus. It takes a lot of time and resources to become a doctor, which is to say that it takes a lot of financial capital to make doctoring skill capital. But in normal circumstances, with time, we can transform that lesser value capital into greater value capital. On the island, you can't really do that. The workers can build up capital in the form of tools, and houses, and crops, etc., but there is no way to turn tools into doctors. Absent a medical school also crashing on the island, they aren't making any more of 'em. The market won't equilibrate.

In economic terms, the doctors are extracting a "rent" - a payment for something in excess of its cost, but which isn't going to end up bringing more of it into existence. And there are rentiers in the real world. The money the landlord collects isn't going to bring more land into existence. The money the cartel member makes won't give more people membership in that cartel. The money someone gets from government favoritism won't necessarily create more favorites.

If you think about this historically, the times when there were the greatest and most persistent class differences were when land, which you can't make more of (unless you are Dutch), was a scarce and necessary factor of production controlled by the wealthy minority. Some of the major social breakthroughs correlated to changes in land-holding. There was major class disruption when money first came to Greece and the nobles could start selling off their land monopolies. There was a major turn to the advantage of peasants after the Black Plague left workers rare and land more relatively more plentiful. And there was major disruption when advances made in agriculture and industry made major land uses a much smaller part of the economy.

But, for the most part, holding capital in a modern economy isn't the same as being able to extract a rent. For most capital, you can make more of it. That's certainly true of financial capital. So if the issue is that capital takes too much of the returns, and labor doesn't take enough, then the answer is either to make capital less scarce or people more scarce. And the fact that capital gets a high return should induce more people to forego consumption in order to produce more capital. Of course, I am not convinced the return on capital is so very high, and I suspect that people are pretty rationally making the decision not to forego more current consumption in order to get higher returns later. There are diminishing returns to wealth, and you can't take it with you when you go.

stephanie 08-18-2011 04:14 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 222247)
Well, given that neither of us are typical Nation readers, I am not sure how either of us would know. But you were right about the Nation mailer. So kudos.

Well, he wasn't quite right, not unless he claims poetic license or (as I guessed) joking.

The implication of his comment was different than the language quoted. Nothing suggesting that the Nation was promoting the kinds of flash mobs we've seen lately and nothing about "disgruntled welfare recipients." On the other hand, you were wrong to assume that there would be nothing about organizing flash mobs. You just should have narrowed your challenge, but showing confidence is admirable. ;-)

Quote:

Cruises are for spending time with people you love, not people you agree with.
I've mentioned before that I have a friend who's gone on several National Review cruises. He was all excited about how you could mix the fun of the cruise (his wife goes too, at least) with the mental stimulation of hanging with Jonah Goldberg. Okay, he didn't really mention Jonah, he mentioned the lectures and so on. I keep thinking that if only NR had started the cruise thing earlier, it would have made for a great very special episode of The Love Boat. Ideally involving both William F. Buckley Jr. and Charo.

Cruises don't appeal to me, but I suppose if I went on one, one with lectures and the like would be best. These political magazine ones do seem a little narrow, though.

miceelf 08-18-2011 04:57 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 222354)
I've mentioned before that I have a friend who's gone on several National Review cruises. He was all excited about how you could mix the fun of the cruise (his wife goes too, at least) with the mental stimulation of hanging with Jonah Goldberg. Okay, he didn't really mention Jonah, he mentioned the lectures and so on. I keep thinking that if only NR had started the cruise thing earlier, it would have made for a great very special episode of The Love Boat. Ideally involving both William F. Buckley Jr. and Charo.

Cruises don't appeal to me, but I suppose if I went on one, one with lectures and the like would be best. These political magazine ones do seem a little narrow, though.

I can't imagine my wife enjoying a cruise that had lectures. She's very much a "let's completely veg out" kind of vacationer. By implication, I am too.

whburgess 08-18-2011 06:03 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jimM47 (Post 222338)
As I see it, Florian made a factual statement that I think is true (perhaps only in a technical sense, but still in an important technical sense), but which I think is true for different reasons, and is best understood in the context and detail I put forward.

I suspect the key distinction that separates the positions Florian and I are articulating is this: As I read him, Florian regards it as necessary for the sustainability of a capitalist economy that workers be able to purchase the consumer good that the society is capable of producing. As you paraphrase him: "[if] owners ... continually suck[] money from labor ... demand will dry up." Or as he says, "if capitalism produces far more goods and services than workers can afford to buy because they are underpaid, there is a big problem."

I think this is looking at only part of the story. Consumption by consumers, or laborers, is not the sum total of consumption in a society, and demand does not dry up permanently simply because that component of demand is missing. It can dry up temporarily, but it can also dry up for any change. It might be morally wrong for certain distributions of income to exist, but it is not economically self-destructive for the return on capital to increase relative to the return on raw labor.

Imagine that you and a hundred other people get shipwrecked on a deserted island. The island has resources, but you have no provisions other than what you can gather. Oh, and this isn't a tropical island, so you'd better be ready when winter comes. I venture to say that you would all be doing quite a lot of work, and be doing very little "buying back the product." You're probably going to be consuming at a subsistence level, while trying to build up the resources of the group for future survival, and you're going to be making tools and other things that will make your future existence more pleasant. In other words, you'll be deferring consumption in order to build up capital, which is presently very scarce.

But imagine one of you does have a lot of capital. One of you is a doctor, which means she has a whole lot of human capital! (Sure the rest of you had training and education, too, but for most of you that capital took a precipitous decline the moment you were wrecked on this island.) I venture to say that the doctor might have to do considerably less work, and considerably easier work, while still getting a pretty good share of the productive efforts of the islandfolk. Who is gonna be the one to say "you don't deserve that" and risk not getting treatment. Now, the doctor has a monopoly here, but even if there are more people and two competing doctors, I suspect their services are still going to get a higher return than those of the accountant-turned-woodchopper. The market is saying "we need the next doctor more than we need the next woodchopper."

Of course, a difference between this hypothetical and the real world is that in the real world this would give an incentive to create more doctors. Doctoring skill capital would become less scarce, and its owners could thus extract a smaller share of the surplus. It takes a lot of time and resources to become a doctor, which is to say that it takes a lot of financial capital to make doctoring skill capital. But in normal circumstances, with time, we can transform that lesser value capital into greater value capital. On the island, you can't really do that. The workers can build up capital in the form of tools, and houses, and crops, etc., but there is no way to turn tools into doctors. Absent a medical school also crashing on the island, they aren't making any more of 'em. The market won't equilibrate.

In economic terms, the doctors are extracting a "rent" - a payment for something in excess of its cost, but which isn't going to end up bringing more of it into existence. And there are rentiers in the real world. The money the landlord collects isn't going to bring more land into existence. The money the cartel member makes won't give more people membership in that cartel. The money someone gets from government favoritism won't necessarily create more favorites.

If you think about this historically, the times when there were the greatest and most persistent class differences were when land, which you can't make more of (unless you are Dutch), was a scarce and necessary factor of production controlled by the wealthy minority. Some of the major social breakthroughs correlated to changes in land-holding. There was major class disruption when money first came to Greece and the nobles could start selling off their land monopolies. There was a major turn to the advantage of peasants after the Black Plague left workers rare and land more relatively more plentiful. And there was major disruption when advances made in agriculture and industry made major land uses a much smaller part of the economy.

But, for the most part, holding capital in a modern economy isn't the same as being able to extract a rent. For most capital, you can make more of it. That's certainly true of financial capital. So if the issue is that capital takes too much of the returns, and labor doesn't take enough, then the answer is either to make capital less scarce or people more scarce. And the fact that capital gets a high return should induce more people to forego consumption in order to produce more capital. Of course, I am not convinced the return on capital is so very high, and I suspect that people are pretty rationally making the decision not to forego more current consumption in order to get higher returns later. There are diminishing returns to wealth, and you can't take it with you when you go.

I love your posts Jim. Thanks for taking the time.

popcorn_karate 08-18-2011 07:46 PM

Re: Maybe Obama just isn't a liberal
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by PreppyMcPrepperson (Post 222090)
I agree completely with the bold text above, but it is not entirely separate from the question of where on the spectrum of center-left to left-left he sits.

My recollection of his primary run is that he was to the left of Hillary Clinton on some things (wars, making a big deal of the environment) and to her right on other things (health care, NAFTA), all of which is fine, in that the individual views he expressed struck me as being coherent if not always ones I agreed with, and I expected that he would at some point knit them together into an overarching policy worldview.

But what I find now is that ALL policy views appear to pay a slightly secondary role in his mind to process: so in other words, he seems to be someone who may desire policy X, but would prefer to arrive at policy Y by a process he considers respectable rather than to arrive at policy X with his hands dirty.

The question of Obama's conciliatory, high-oratorical style and the question of his 'true' policy worldview aren't separate: the former helps explain the ambiguity both supporters and opponents feel about the latter.

That is what the Drew Westen piece referenced in the DV in the NYT gets at. It is also something highlighted in press coverage of the Administration and comments by staff.

As an example, in a session at a Fortune magazine conference earlier this summer, Larry Summers described Obama as someone who trusts his staff to the point of having essentially no opinion on specific policy points on which they advise him. Summers will say, 'Mr. President, I advise you to do this.' And the President will say 'Okay.' And if it backfires, he will fire Summers. Summers contrasted this to Bill Clinton, who got much deeper in the weeds of policy issues. Summers said that at the level of process - meetings that run on time, memos that get read and responded to instead of getting lost under mountains of other paperwork - Obama's way works better. And it might, but what I heard was the President's chief economic counselor saying the President was essentially neutral on the content of the policies he pursued.

So maybe he is neither a liberal nor a centrist, but someone who doesn't get up in the morning thinking about policy at all.

wow. thats even more depressing than thinking he's a moderate republican.

ledocs 08-18-2011 11:14 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

So if the issue is that capital takes too much of the returns, and labor doesn't take enough, then the answer is either to make capital less scarce or people more scarce. And the fact that capital gets a high return should induce more people to forego consumption in order to produce more capital.
So one way to make capital less scarce is to print more money, i.e. inflate, and redistribute from creditors to debtors that way. This is what Rogoff is proposing as a response to the current crisis. Would you support that?

The other part of what you say, the part that relies on market incentives to equilibrate things (people will simply save more if the returns to capital are "inordinately" high), seems like a kind of reverie. You seem to be saying that there is no crisis, because there cannot be a crisis, because a crisis is impossible, because the real is the rational. The net worth of most American households is very low, probably ranging from a negative value to about $50,000. Most people do not save and, realistically, cannot save.

sugarkang 08-19-2011 12:01 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jimM47 (Post 222338)
Consumption by consumers, or laborers, is not the sum total of consumption in a society, and demand does not dry up permanently simply because that component of demand is missing. It can dry up temporarily, but it can also dry up for any change. It might be morally wrong for certain distributions of income to exist, but it is not economically self-destructive for the return on capital to increase relative to the return on raw labor.

This is more or less how I see it. In fact, I think it's morally correct for the rich to have most of the money, just as long as the poor have the humanitarian basics. But, let me ask you something that might be more in line with Florian's argument, though decidedly less socialist. Can you tell me why we're not undergoing structural unemployment?

The investor class has too much money to throw around. So all the VCs that get together in Silicon Valley are creating bubble startups, because when looking at new tech businesses as a commodity, it's really just too many dollars chasing too few goods, right? That's a bit simplified. It's not so much that the companies are overvalued (they are) but it's the dearth of software engineering talent. So, Silicon Valley is and has been continually booming. Most of the unemployment stats show the hardest hit being the high school education demographic. Manual labor is near obsolete. It was clear to me when I considered getting a maid and decided all I really needed was a Roomba.

I've heard Krugman's explanation, but it still eludes me. How is this not structural (technological) unemployment?

Quote:

On the island, you can't really do that. The workers can build up capital in the form of tools, and houses, and crops, etc., but there is no way to turn tools into doctors. Absent a medical school also crashing on the island, they aren't making any more of 'em. The market won't equilibrate.
Thanks for saying this, though it seems more a vindication of Florian's original point: the rich stay rich because they're rich and will be rich for all time due to their richness. Perhaps I haven't understood your argument about rents. Do you mean to say that we are in some rent homeostasis? I'd like your input on this.

But let's go back to looking at the world in socialist terms. Say there are 100 people on your island. 2 are doctors and the other 98 scramble around like heathens looking for food and do the backbreaking work of trying to survive. The heathens trade in their scarce inventory of food and water in exchange for medical services. In other words, this is America: the rich do nothing and the poor do "the work." It's nice being a doctor.

Now, let's say that the original 100 procreate and replace themselves with a 2nd generation of islanders. Assume there are still just 2 doctors with the same skills. Except the proletariat 98 have learned new skills: hut making, agriculture, animal herding. Then another generation goes by and the 2 doctors are still the same, but the 98 proletariats have created a cowrie shell currency system for trade and each person has specialized in the economy. One builds only houses, one does the plumbing, one does all the animal raising, one does all the farming, and so on. Suddenly, our doctors' services are less demanded than island plumber.

Wealth is not more stuff in relation to your neighbor. Wealth is increased standard of living through innovation and productivity. Wealth is not what the few rich people above us have that we do not. Wealth is driving down the price of technology to share it with the billions of poor people below us. Why do socialists hate poor people?

Quote:

So if the issue is that capital takes too much of the returns, and labor doesn't take enough, then the answer is either to make capital less scarce or people more scarce.
So, print like Zimbabwe and kill off the poor people. Got it.

jimM47 08-19-2011 04:14 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
I said:
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimM47
So if the issue is that capital takes too much of the returns, and labor doesn't take enough, then the answer is either to make capital less scarce or people more scarce. And the fact that capital gets a high return should induce more people to forego consumption in order to produce more capital.

The responses were:
Quote:

Originally Posted by ledocs (Post 222433)
So one way to make capital less scarce is to print more money, i.e. inflate, and redistribute from creditors to debtors that way.

Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang
So, print like Zimbabwe and kill off the poor people. Got it.

So, just to be clear, inflation does not make capital less scarce.* It makes money less scarce, which decreases the money's store of value, which leaves a net increase in value of zero. Which makes sense if you think about it. Printing money doesn't make anyone smarter, and it doesn't make there be more tools or factories, etc. The relative scarcity of the factors of productivity are unchanged. What inflation does is redistribute capital. It changes the ownership of capital, not the return on capital. Debtors end up with more capital. Creditors (including holders of cash) end up with less. Capital is capital, whether it is held by robber-barons or day-laborers.

I think there might be some confusion on these two points -- who holds capital, and how much capital there is. If you are a laborer who gains capital, obviously you are going to be better off, because you will get return on that capital. But the return to your raw labor is not going up. (You might invest in something that makes your labor more productive, but we are counting that as return on capital, not on labor itself.) But as a laborer, you can also become better off simply because there is more capital in existence, even though you don't own any of it. Capital is less scarce, and labor is relatively more scarce. (Of course, you could take a net loss from your capital creating less return).

Imagine that aliens arrive on the planet and say: "Bring us to each of the ten richest people in the world, we want to give them each a duplicate of every factory they own." There has just been a huge influx of capital, though the owners of labor have gotten none of it. And yet, they are still going to be better off once after everyone adjusts. Suddenly the world is going to have the capacity to produce a whole lot more stuff, if only the labor required for that production can be coaxed into existence.

---

*Note: Inflation can have an effect on capital, but any effect of inflation on the size of the pool of capital will be secondary. If you inflate, you put capital in the hands of people who are likely to have systematically different financial profiles, which means they might value future returns to a greater or lesser degree, which means they could shift toward more capital formation or they could shift toward more current consumption.

What are people going to do? One thing to keep in mind here is the permanent income hypothesis. People decide their rate of savings vs. consumption based on a desire to smooth their consumption over time, so their decisions are affected by their future earnings expectations and their estimates of current wealth. At the beginning of the recession we had a huge negative shock to collective estimates of current wealth when the value of homes plummeted. And what we've seen since is that the personal savings rate has shot up as people realized they don't have the wealth they thought they had. Another way of putting this is that for quite sometime there was a mismatch between the level of capital formation that the economy wanted (and that appeared to be taking place) and the capital formation that was actually taking place. One note to say, since, by some measures the U.S. was said to have a negative savings rate, is that having that savings rate become

jimM47 08-19-2011 04:39 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 222435)
Can you tell me why we're not undergoing structural unemployment? . . . How is this not structural (technological) unemployment?

That seems like an empirical question for which my insight is going to be extremely limited, and I understand structural unemployment to have more than a technological component, but here are some things to consider with regard to technological change specifically:

1) It doesn't seem like a good explanation on its own terms. In the late 90's, after we had undergone significant and sustained technological advances, unemployment was below the floor previously thought to be unobtainable/undesirable because of frictional and structural unemployment. Have intervening advances come so much more quickly that workers are unable to keep up now the way they could then?

2) There are better explanations. The rise in unemployment is linked, time-wise, to a financial crisis and the bursting of an asset bubble. The problem seems less to be that old skills and services became obsolete overnight, but that it became more difficult to afford to buy those old services overnight (or at least that it became more uncertain whether buying those things was a good idea). Lots of people who are unemployed have perfectly marketable skills. The architect still knows how to design buildings, and there will be buildings to design. But if you are thinking of having a building designed, you might be holding off to figure out what your revenue stream is actually going to look like when things settle back to normal before you hire an architect to design to those parameters.

jimM47 08-19-2011 04:52 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 222435)
Thanks for saying this, though it seems more a vindication of Florian's original point: the rich stay rich because they're rich and will be rich for all time due to their richness. Perhaps I haven't understood your argument about rents.

What I am talking about is the conditions under which the return to capital versus the return to other factors of production is not the result of market forces that result from the judgments of individuals responding to incentives. When excessive returns on some form of capital will induce more of that capital to come into existence, lowering returns, we can be confident that the return on capital will not, in the long run, be "too high." It's return is set by a competitive market. But where returns on some form of capital are irrelevant to how much of it exists, you can't say that returns aren't in some sense "too high." Historically speaking, at least, the amount of capital out there (and its limiting effects) that is like this second type is low and getting lower.

Parallax 08-19-2011 05:43 AM

Stop spreading misinformation about TARP
 
I hate this kind of rhetoric and it is very disappointing that comes from someone like Glenn Loury.

TARP cost the US taxpayer 25 billion dollars. And even with the 2007 budget that is less than 1% of the federal budget. That is the same as the cost of GM bailout I believe if not less. Now what will cost the US taxpayer a lot and already has is the Fannie & Freddie conservatorship. The darling of the left (see Barney Frank & Paul Krugman) have cost, according to Obama administration, 130 billion dollars, while the CBO puts the figure at 317 billion dollars which will increase another 42 billion dollars in 2012-2021 period.

Florian 08-19-2011 06:44 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 222435)
But, let me ask you something that might be more in line with Florian's argument, though decidedly less socialist. Can you tell me why we're not undergoing structural unemployment?

How was my argument "socialist?" It was an elementary paraphrase of Marx and of Marx's neo-Hegelian disciple Kojčve, without the Marxist solution--expropriation of the capitalist class.

There are only two ways, it seems to me, of dividing up and distributing the surplus value (profit) that derives from the scientific/technological innovation that is constantly revolutionizing the capitalist mode of production. Either the owners of capital pay workers enough to buy the goods they produce--the alternative being overproduction and underconsumption--or the state intervenes to redistribute surplus value, redeploying it in public goods and services. This will reduce the profits of capitalists, but it may---just--- save them from destroying themselves and everyone else. You may call this socialism; I would call it prudence.

I forgot: There is also the typically American solution to the problem of maldistribution: let workers borrow, borrow, borrow, and consume, consume, consume until the banks run out of money to lend, but that seems not to have worked out terrribly well.

Quote:

....Why do socialists hate poor people?

So, print like Zimbabwe and kill off the poor people. Got it.
Putting these two quotes together, I think you have it exactly backwards.

ledocs 08-19-2011 08:50 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

But as a laborer, you can also become better off simply because there is more capital in existence, even though you don't own any of it. Capital is less scarce, and labor is relatively more scarce. (Of course, you could take a net loss from your capital creating less return).
"As a laborer, you could become better off..." And you also could not, as you yourself point out. Let's say capital reproduces itself magically, as in your hypothetical about the aliens who donate factories. Let's say prices of goods produced by the factories in question fall. That's good for you, the laborer. But your overall cost of living may still increase, while your real wages are stagnant or are in decline. If the cost of all finished goods were to fall, you, the laborer, could still have a declining standard of living. And, as far as I know, this is the standard liberal account of what has happened to the American worker over the past 20-30 years. The cost of consumer goods has fallen, generally, because someone's capital, not the American laborer's, has increased, presumably mostly that of owners of foreign factories, the American laborer does benefit from this, but not enough to make the general trend worthwhile to him, not enough for a reasonable person to say that his standard of living has increased.

As the price of finished goods falls, it is also possible that what were once profitable factories now become unprofitable. So this reproduction of capital is a two-edged sword. Of course, under conditions of extreme competition in the production of finished goods, and of a profit squeeze, the next move might be for capital to move to somewhere where labor costs can be reduced.

But I'm not too sure that I see the point of all this abstract discussion. I asked you whether you would favor some [moderate] induced inflation in the US in order to redistribute capital from capital to labor (accepting your correction of my formulation) and got no reply. You are writing all this stuff, but what are you really saying? Are you saying that the two financial "crises" the West has undergone, the one that began in 2008 and the one that began about a month ago, are not really crises? Are you saying that capitalism is self-correcting and not self-destroying and that the best government is therefore minimal government?

If a policy goal were to increase returns to labor, how would one go about decreasing the supply of labor worldwide, as one of your two possible means to achieve the goal? If that's not possible, then either current returns can be redistributed from capital to labor, or there can be increased returns to capital that nevertheless are distributed to labor. That is, there is economic growth, but the fruits of the growth are distributed disproportionately to labor, not because of some law of physics, but because of a political decision.

Or, alternatively, there is no crisis in aggregate demand and there is no overcapacity of industrial production. But I think there is overcapacity, the world as currently organized could produce considerably more cars and shoes than it can consume, factories are closed or operate at less than capacity. Meanwhile, the proportion of the population engaged in food production and distribution continues to decline. Which leaves government and services as sources of employment growth.

sugarkang 08-19-2011 10:34 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian
I forgot: There is also the typically American solution to the problem of maldistribution: let workers borrow, borrow, borrow, and consume, consume, consume until the banks run out of money to lend, but that seems not to have worked out terrribly well.

I agree with you that this a problem. However, like I explained before, my sense of balance has nothing to do with how much rich people have. I don't subscribe to a politics of resentment.

Quote:

Putting these two quotes together, I think you have it exactly backwards.
I was joking. Clearly, JimM doesn't think that.

sugarkang 08-19-2011 11:03 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by jimM47 (Post 222450)
So, just to be clear, inflation does not make capital less scarce.* It makes money less scarce, which decreases the money's store of value, which leaves a net increase in value of zero.

Thanks for the clarification. My understanding of capital is similar to yours -- subsequent generations of island proletariats being my example. I guess we didn't define "capital" from the outset.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jimM47 (Post 222452)
2) There are better explanations. The rise in unemployment is linked, time-wise, to a financial crisis and the bursting of an asset bubble. The problem seems less to be that old skills and services became obsolete overnight, but that it became more difficult to afford to buy those old services overnight (or at least that it became more uncertain whether buying those things was a good idea). Lots of people who are unemployed have perfectly marketable skills. The architect still knows how to design buildings, and there will be buildings to design. But if you are thinking of having a building designed, you might be holding off to figure out what your revenue stream is actually going to look like when things settle back to normal before you hire an architect to design to those parameters.

Are you saying that the investor class and corporations aren't putting their money to use because of too much uncertainty? At least that's been my understanding of the problem. However, what are your feelings toward redistribution? It's hard to think that this wouldn't help at this point, if only to preserve our faith in the capitalist system. The people need to believe in it.

Florian 08-19-2011 12:09 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 222461)
I agree with you that this a problem. However, like I explained before, my sense of balance has nothing to do with how much rich people have. I don't subscribe to a politics of resentment.


Neither do I. You subscribe, as far as I can see, to no politics at all, unless it is to the comic book politics of your glibertarian heroes.

Quote:

I was joking. Clearly, JimM doesn't think that.
No kidding. You were joking? Who would have thought that?

sugarkang 08-19-2011 12:14 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 222466)
No kidding. You were joking? Who would have thought that?

I don't know. Perhaps, someone of your education?
Nailed it?

Florian 08-19-2011 12:21 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 222468)
I don't know. Perhaps, someone of your education?
Nailed it?

No, you didn't. You simply hammered in a bit more deeply the impression that I have of you, that you are a better joker than anything else.

jimM47 08-19-2011 02:30 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ledocs (Post 222458)
But I'm not too sure that I see the point of all this abstract discussion. I asked you whether you would favor some [moderate] induced inflation in the US in order to redistribute capital from capital to labor (accepting your correction of my formulation) and got no reply.

I made abstract points because I was responding to abstract points made by Florian et al. about the self-sustainability of capitalism, and I wanted to make those points clear.

There's actually quite a jump from that discussion to the current crises. Zeke and I, along with a few others, had a conversation on Fed policy over here, which, while also abstract, is at least more on-topic. The short answer is that I don't think inflation effectively solves the problems in the economy, and I fear nasty side effects (though it would make my loans easier to pay off).

Quote:

If a policy goal were to increase returns to labor, how would one go about decreasing the supply of labor worldwide, as one of your two possible means to achieve the goal?
I don't advocate this, but that is generally what people are trying to do when they advocate for trade restrictions and immigration restrictions. If you can't import products from abroad, then you can't build your factory where capital is relatively scarce and labor is relatively abundant, you have to build it where capital is relatively abundant and labor is relatively scarce, so the particular laborers get a larger portion of the surplus. This is, of course, almost entirely what is meant when we say that it is cheaper to produce things in a developing country. The workers aren't better at making things, and the conditions are probably less conducive to production, but the laborers take less of the surplus.

ledocs 08-19-2011 05:19 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Cruises are for spending time with people you love, not people you agree with.
Great formulation. I like that. Although there are all these theme cruises, devoted to spending time with people who in theory share your tastes. Another point of cruises is presumably to try to meet someone with whom to fall in love, someone who shares your tastes and can afford to go on a cruise you can afford to go on.

ledocs 08-19-2011 05:47 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Marxism, or any kind of thinking and writing about economics that is highly influenced by Marxism, is not taken at all seriously in economics, as economics is understood in the Anglo-Saxon world, in Scandinavia, or in parts of the world dominated by US influence, e.g. South and Latin America. That interview that Roubini did with the WSJ was unusual in that regard, in that he cited Marx approbatively. People who consult with capitalists in the US for a living normally do not do that. But I think this is really a matter of rhetoric. For example, I listened to a 50-minute speech that Robert Reich gave at his alma mater, Dartmouth, last week, and Reich has been making all these essentially Marxist points for years, it's just that he makes what can only be construed as a concerted effort never to mention Marx as an influence. And I think the same thing probably applies to Dean Baker, to Krugman, and so on. Bringing up Marx while speaking qua "economist" is a sure way to become marginalized in a hurry, that appears to be the perception. So Roubini does not care about that, which is interesting, but I can't offer a complete hypothesis about why this would be so, except to say that he is probably confident that he will continue to make a good living, despite the fact that he does not share the general contempt of the economics profession for Marx. The prevalent view in that profession is that Marx was an economic imbecile whose work does not belong to the economics curriculum, it belongs in the dustbin of courses on the history of political theory. In particular, Anglo-Saxon economics rejects the labor theory of value and Marx's theory of surplus value, which derives from the former. Instead, value derives from satisfying the utility curves of consumers.

The Marxist analysis applies anywhere and everywhere where there is a primarily capitalist economy.

Another somewhat strange thing I noticed recently. I started watching a course emanating from UC Berkeley called "Global Sociology." The course, and its instructors, are heavily influenced by Marxism, particularly by someone called David Harvey, who is an avowedly Marxist geographer. (There is lots of David Harvey available on youtube.) Geography no longer means what it used to mean, it's sort of a catch-all social science at this point, it's the supra-social-science. But the point is, outside of the world of mathematical economics, and including what used to be called political economy, Marxism still has some cachet in the social sciences in the English-speaking world.

harkin 08-19-2011 05:52 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 222354)
Well, he wasn't quite right, not unless he claims poetic license or (as I guessed) joking.....nothing about "disgruntled welfare recipients".

You're shooting the messenger. I merely took it for granted that when The Nation said that the flash mobs in the UK were the result of entitlement reductions, that they actually believed that tripe. I'm happy to see that even you reject the false narrative, but it isn't mine.

Quote:

Originally Posted by stephanie (Post 222354)
The implication of his comment was different than the language quoted. Nothing suggesting that the Nation was promoting the kinds of flash mobs we've seen lately

You got me there, I called the mobs that the Nation was seeking to promote 'flash mobs' and the email claimed that they wanted to instruct in organizing a 'flash mob'.

Diane1976 08-20-2011 12:19 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
These two are great. I don't know what to think, but remembering Obama's book, "Dreams of My Father", he really doesn't seem like a fighter...more like somebody trying to bring the different parts of his own life, and people, together, more a compromiser, really, based on hindsight, of course. In the book he doesn't really come across as a leader, more an inspiration. He's something like Martin Luther King, in a way, but King's time had come. Obama's time wasn't quite there, or passed him by because of powerful forces in the opposite direction. But, maybe it's not too late. I guess we'll see. TKS to John and Glenn for sharing their ideas on this. It's special for them, as African Americans. I'm not AA or even American, but the American president is more than just a leader of a country. People in many places look to him for leadership, place their hopes on him.

I wonder if another person could have done better at this time. I don't think so, but somebody like Hillary would not have gone down without fighting, I don't think. I wish Obama would take a stand, fight back, whatever the result.

sugarkang 08-20-2011 12:27 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Diane1976 (Post 222587)
I wonder if another person could have done better at this time. I don't think so, but somebody like Hillary would not have gone down without fighting, I don't think. I wish Obama would take a stand, fight back, whatever the result.

For better or worse, he's Berry Gordy. We can argue about whether he's avoiding the "angry black man" trope as a political calculation or because he's really a mild mannered compromiser. In the long run, I think it's smart to not fight back.

Diane1976 08-20-2011 01:00 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 222590)
For better or worse, he's Berry Gordy. We can argue about whether he's avoiding the "angry black man" trope as a political calculation or because he's really a mild mannered compromiser. In the long run, I think it's smart to not fight back.

Why do you think so? I mean why is it smart not to fight back? That's interesting.

I thought Glenn was a bit contradictory, actually. He seemed to agree that Obama should fight more, but he also was very insistent about not "blowing off" the Tea Party people, what he called the "heartland people" because they are the "real Americans", maybe. But, personally, I think that's what Obama has been trying to do, reach out to those people, REASON with them. I'm not sure reasoning works in politics, and definitely not with them. Politics, I'm thinking, is about 10% REASON, and about 90% EMOTION. What do you think? What is that particular emotion about. I guess I don't exactly get it. Quite frankly, all those Republican candidates just seem off the wall to me, no matter how hard I try to get them. And I really do try.

sugarkang 08-20-2011 01:12 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Diane1976 (Post 222599)
Why do you think so? I mean why is it smart not to fight back? That's interesting.

Because I don't believe the POTUS single-handedly controls the U.S. economy. Obama is a much more important figurehead for understanding and tolerance not only in the U.S., but around the world.

Quote:

I thought Glenn was a bit contradictory, actually.
I think he was playing devil's advocate.

Quote:

But, personally, I think that's what Obama has been trying to do, reach out to those people, REASON with them.
People have different views on what is "reason."

Quote:

Quite frankly, all those Republican candidates just seem off the wall to me, no matter how hard I try to get them. And I really do try.
Well, not all of them. Bachmann, yes. Romney and Perry don't seem crazy. They're both liars and opportunists with different levels of each.

Diane1976 08-21-2011 11:50 PM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by sugarkang (Post 222601)
Because I don't believe the POTUS single-handedly controls the U.S. economy. Obama is a much more important figurehead for understanding and tolerance not only in the U.S., but around the world.


I think he was playing devil's advocate.


People have different views on what is "reason."



Well, not all of them. Bachmann, yes. Romney and Perry don't seem crazy. They're both liars and opportunists with different levels of each.

I forgot about Romney. He seems quite reasonable to me. I don't know what you mean when you call him a liar. I saw him trying to defend his own health care program while criticizing Obama's health reforms. He wasn't very convincing on the differences, but he had a point when saying a system that suited the people of his small state might not be appropriate to impose on the entire country. That, I think, is true because the states are extremely different, it seems, and have very different needs and attitudes. I personally find people who criticize him because of his religion disgusting. He doesn't present himself as some kind of religious zealot who wants to impose his religious ideas on everybody else. I think he was the only Republican candidate who stood up against the promoters of hatred against Muslims. That makes him a good guy, in my book.

I'm not sure about Perry. His public prayer meetings and gun waving qualify as "off the wall" to me. But when I call these people "off the wall" I don't mean they are either crazy or stupid. In fact, I think that Republicans, generally, are smarter on politcal strategy, especially long term, than Democrats. However, I, personally, think they stoop to very low levels in implementing that strategy, i.e. in terms of pandering to the worst in the population just to ensure a loyal "base" of enthusiastic followers. Sure, it works, but I don't think it's in the long term interest of the country and the values for which it stands. That's just my opinion, of course.

eeeeeeeli 08-22-2011 12:01 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Florian (Post 222039)
No doubt, But the Kojčve-Fukuyama lesson is still valid. If income is redistributed disproportionately upwards to owners of capital at the expense of labor, there will be excess capacity and underconsumption.

Cue Gov. Christy: Who gets pensions anymore?

eeeeeeeli 08-22-2011 12:12 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by harkin (Post 222113)
"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

Nothing personal, but I hate these kind of quotes. They revel in their own preciousness at the expense of clarity, depth, and ultimately, truth.

Capitalism and socialism have their share of blessings and miseries. Never more so when both are combined, in the mixed-economies we all hopefully can agree are better than either singularly.

Diane1976 08-22-2011 12:36 AM

Re: This Cutting Edge (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by eeeeeeeli (Post 222845)
Nothing personal, but I hate these kind of quotes. They revel in their own preciousness at the expense of clarity, depth, and ultimately, truth.

Capitalism and socialism have their share of blessings and miseries. Never more so when both are combined, in the mixed-economies we all hopefully can agree are better than either singularly.

Definitely agree. I've heard that expressed as a combination of "can do" capitalism and "will do" socialism. Certainly nobody has come up with anything that better suits us in terms of ensuring our economic well being, our concerns about the less fortunate, opportunities for ourselves and, especially our kids, and the principles and freedoms we value. I, personally, think we become obsessed with small differences in the promises and performances of our politicians, but, no doubt, that's part of what keeps the system going, and us happy, in the long run.


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