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American system

  1. 1. 1 Daniela Parisi Department of Economics Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Milan (Italy) Reading the American System of Political Economy in Italy The case of Henry C. Carey (preliminary and incomplete: please do not quote) 1. Introduction At the beginning of the 1990s while studying the Archives1 of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania I came across some correspondence between Francesco Ferrara and Henry C. Carey2. That was the point of departure of a, by now, long research path, by which I have tracked down documents that testify to contacts, meetings, and mutual citation between Italian and American economists. Thus, I have become part of those historians who study the spreading of scholarly thought, reciprocal influences and minglings, which may take place by means of personal contacts, translations, exchanges, and emigration and immigration experiences, topics that in the last decades have been appropriately investigated in works far more significant than mine. Economic thought from Europe to North America began circulating in the XVIII century through such a variety of channels and continuous currents of opinion that historians tend to admit that also 19th-century American theoretical debates mainly developed according to the ways and times required for the circulation of the classics. This means that a network connecting intellectuals from both continents quickly developed as a result of knowledge spread by specialised press and personal meetings, both official and unofficial, as well as by the activity of scientific associations. This enabled wider participation in the debates on economics. 1 Edward Carey Gardiner Collection, Series 5, Carey section, b. Henry C. Carey. 2 For the main bibliography on Carey, the Careys, and their circle see: Green, 1985; Carey- Bairtl, 1885; Morrison, 1965, 1968, 1986; Wills, 1925; Barber, 1988; Eiselen, 1932; Phlimey, 1918.
  2. 2. 2 Cultural exchange among the United States, France and England dates back to the traditional bonds of nationality3; exchange with German speaking economists began in the years 1820-30: it became increasingly more deeply rooted and developed incessantly throughout the century4. With regard to the overseas acquaintance with works by Italian thinkers, there is no doubt as to the great interest aroused by Latin classics and any Italian authors in the XXVIII century. In this respect, The roots of the political and constitutional debate on emancipation and republicanism can be traced back to the Neo-Roman theory of liberty, the republican “libertas” of the Romans, intended as the absence of forms of domination, on which Philip Pettit5 and Quentin Skinner have masterfully written6. The debate centred on the link between the freedom of individuals — intended as non-interference or non slavery — and democracy in a political system. It was essentially a political debate rooted in the “Roman” understanding of Republic, resumed by Machiavelli, and afterwards by English constitutionalists and Montesquieu; this line, later shared by American constitutionalists, does neither refer to, nor link up with, the field of economic research, even if it was a key topic in the XVIII century7. 3 On the means of circulation of French economic thought, which among other things found rich possibilities of development in the parallel revolutionary aspirations, see in particular Rosengarten, 1907; Spurlin, 1984; Mott and Zinke, 1987. In addition to this, it should be mentioned that in the first half of the 19th century J.B. Say’s work was a university text book in as many as 14 universities. For the connection with English thought we must refer to the knowledge of the works of the Scottish moral philosophers, W. Petty and J. Steuart, and, naturally, A. Smith, and in the 19th century to the Malthus-Ricardian rent theory, up to the adoption of the Principles of J.S.Mill as the most widely used text book for the teaching of political economy at university level. 4 In the first half of the 19th century Friedrich List and Francis Lieber were fundamental in helping to understand these links. References to this situation for Italian readers are included in Parisi, 1990. See the recent work by Carlson, 1999. 5 Pettit, 1997. On this American idea of liberty, its meanings, the pre-conditions that make it possibile and the limits to the enjoyment of rights, see Elliott and Cownie, 1975; Foner, 2000. 6 Skinner, 1998. Einaudi is currently preparing the publication of the Italian edition. 7 It may be interesting to point out that the editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica at the beginning of the 19th century – the 1810, 1817 and 1823 editions – include only two system theorists that can be connected to the Italian tradition, Nicolò Machiavelli and Ludovico Antonio Muratori. The Edinburgh edition was certainly to be found in the libraries of American intellectuals, alongside the Enciclopédie, before Americans were offered their own encyclopaedia through an autochthonous initiative (infra, note 82).
  3. 3. 3 The fact that contacts between Americans and Italians were fragmentary, and due more to the will of some individuals than to a tissue of continuative relations, accounts for the fact that it is specially difficult to find documents on such reciprocal acquaintance8. In a 1970 article, which would mark a turning point between previous and succeeding (albeit scarce) historiography, a historian in Italian history was astonished to observe that no handbook on the history of economic thought ever published in Italy had a chapter on American economists or economic theories; this, with the exception of Veblen who had been (little) studied as a “flying satellite”, an entity in the vacuum of a continent. The historian, Aurelio Macchioro, a living, authoritative scholar, traced thus some new research paths9; in the last forty years those in Italy committed to the study of economic thought couldn't but consider the impact of such insights. As a matter of fact, in the mosaic of scholarly scientific thought, the Americans first emerged between the tesserae representing famous economists and schools and in the interface nodes between theoretical and historiographical strands of thought; only later did their (the Americans') presence gain independent dignity. How could it be, that no investigation of the overseas reception of European classics, and of its feedback to Europe, had been ever completed? How could it be, that what had happened in Philadelphia, as well as in other big US cities and cultural centres, had not aroused any interest? How could it be, that events such as the establishment of private libraries, the quotation of European works, the spreading of European books and encyclopedias, the printing of American editions of volumes originally published in Europe, and the opening of university courses, had spurred so little an interest, or none at all?10. 2. Francesco Ferrara 'discovers' Henry Charles Carey Henry Charles Carey had the same destiny. He was 'discovered' by Francesco Ferrara in 1851. He must have been struck by the interest shown in Carey by John Stuart Mill in his 8 The subject of The Italian Contribution to American Democracy is interestingly analysed in a Ph.D. thesis published in Boston in 1921, and drawn up by Mariano: the theme is the “americanization”, the “synthetization” between natives and Americans of Italian origin. The study clearly shows that very few Italian “scholars” — as far as the proportion of Italians of various generations making contributions — took part in the melting pot phenomenon. 9 A. Macchioro, 1970. 10 D. Parisi, 2001.
  4. 4. 4 Principles of Political Economy (1848)11, but he may also have taken information from the work of Antoine-Elysée Cherbuliez, Riche ou pauvre, exposition des acuses et des affets de la distribution actuelle des richesses sociales (Paris 1940), which mentions Carey. Ferrara addressed a letter to his American colleague, from Turin on December 15th 1851: «I want to know all that was written in America about your method on rent», he wrote. He also asked him to «skim through the booklet» he was sending him the Introduction to his Bastiat’s Harmonies translation into Italian -- and to send him «remarks so that I can use them in my preface to your Principii»12. On May 20th 1853 Ferrara sent Carey the volume of the Biblioteca dell’Economista with the translation of his Principii. The parcel contained a letter where Ferrara renewed «the compliments I believe you deserve», confirming that his «theories are taken in the greatest consideration in Italy at the moment and are greatly favoured», and that he considered «new and fertile the perspective under which you placed the theories on Rent and on the Distribution of Wealth». In his reply Carey thanked his colleague whom, he believed, could master the subject. In particular, their relation mostly developed upon exchanges of a few letters and on writings by Carey translated by Ferrara, especially on the famous Prefazioni to the Biblioteca dell’Economista that Ferrara used to spread Carey's vision and his interpretation of the economic phenomena and of “Americanism in economics”13. These contacts highlight that between the two scholars there were methodological differences and also a strong dissonance in the definition of economics: the science of wealth and utility for Ferrara, and the science of society (often unclearly defined) for Carey; they also held distant positions with reference to the debate on the system of tariffs. Yet, their relationship was also built on a deep consonance about some theoretical ties. They came together in trying to give an answer to the eternal issue of the value of commodities which would indicate the origin of the economic ad in the subject performing that same ad; because everywhere it is “demand that originates supply” as the individual finds the utilities for the satisfaction of his needs in specific commodities and resolves to 11 It must be remembered that the debate between Carey and Mill exerted itself a direct impact on the development of Mill's theoretical system. In effect, it has been observed that Carey's criticism of John Stuart Mill's position on decreasing returns led the latter to realize that his theory could not be validated by confrontation with history; thus, Mill later approached the issue by deductive reasoning, a methodological framework which he was never to abandon. 12 The translation of these paragraphs from the Italian letters are by the A. 13 Some aspects of this story emerge from studies which I have already published (1989; 1990a; 1990b) or prepared for private circulation.
  5. 5. 5 procure himself those commodities through exchanges where expected utility and cost are in equilibrium. Ferrara considered Carey in line with the French followers of Smith, and supported his denial of Ricardo's interpretation of the latter. In particular, Ferrara believed they found common ground in strongly opposing Ricardo's “system of discord”14 in which social classes clashed, thus opening the way to Socialist ideas and movements; furthermore, by considering rent as usurping income, not resulting from work and thus not earned, Ricardo had unintentionally contributed to the demolition of the natural principle of private property. Carey believed that economic operators and nations should be allowed to trade internationally and freely, and that protecting national activities did not mean returning to a mercantilist past but rather enabling industries to grow stronger and face competition, a notion which expanded on Smith's findings in the ‘Wealth of Nations’. Thus, Ferrara believed Carey's works should be studied and spread, as they expressed the views of the middle-class of specific North American areas, and because they also embodied a 'middle- class' notion of a market of free industrious and industrial initiative. Ferrara 'embodied' his interpretation of the two different versions of the Smithian legacy in 'his own' collection of economic works in translation he published his edition of the work of Bastiat in 185115, and it became well-known in North America; in 1853 he also published the Principles by Carey and addressed the controversy on the conception of utility, a topic he was to resume in 1856, in the introductory notes to the volume which contains the translation of the work of John Rae16, and in 1873, referring to the Manual of Political Economy (New York, 1853) by Peshine Smith17. Finally, even if in the Fifties Ferrara began thinking that Carey was sometimes too verbose and repetitive, and that his notions were at times odd and out of the ordinary18, he recognized the historical value of some of his writings which appropriately entered, and still figure in, the history of economics. Furthermore, Ferrara valued Carey's attempt to finding an answer to the questions posed by the tangible system, pursuing the realization 14 F.Ferrara, BE, II, vol. 1, p. 357. 15 F. Ferrara, BE, 1-XII, 1851. 16 Id., 1-XI, 1856. 17 Id., 1-IX, 1873, p. 927. 18 F. Ferrara, BE, Prefazione, vol. 11 ,series 2 (now in: F.Ferrara, Opere Complete, vol. V).
  6. 6. 6 of happiness and common wealth which in Europe and North America had spurred the in- depth investigation of human economic activity in society. 3. The misunderstanding between Ferrara and Carey on the meaning of liberism Within the above-sketched perspective, Carey is considered as the emblem of the particular form taken by ‘economic liberism’ for the greater part of the XIX century in the United States, where, right from the days of the Constitution, the principle of personal freedom tried to find some sort of mediation with national feeling and the promotion of general welfare and regulation of commerce. Carey is the emblem of this approach both when, with particularly impressive insights, he identified unexplored characteristics of the economic system, and when he gave a broad definition of social science strongly clashing with both laissez-faire and a wish for «harmony». These are the years of the founding of the American Social Science Association (1865); Carey embraced its traditional approach to science, by which social phenomena are studied as the set of responsible human acts undertaken with the aim of promoting activities which may enable to reach predetermined goals. These are also the years in which Carey himself 'founded' his school, whose students, sent on study-stays to Germany, familiarized with data collection and quantitative analysis. Although his eclectic production and commitment to contacts with the international scientific milieu seem to emphasise Carey's «vanity» and concern for his role as a «leading figure», those students who developed their scientific competence under his lead, among others, constitute the generation of American economists who, strong of their European experiences, were to lead to the professionalization of North American political economy19 between the Eighties and the Nineties. Finally, it is not surprising that Carey's thought configures itself more as a «militant and coherent» doctrinal corpus than as an exclusively theoretical system, as this is a typical feature of 19th century economic-social thought. Thus, Carey's protectionism is to be seen as one of the manifold expressions of liberal thought; actually, it is the US economists' answer to the request for the reduction of internal governmental force and for 19 M.O. Furner, Advocacy and Objectivity: a crisis in the Professionalization of American Social Sciences 1865-905, University of Kentuky Press, Lexington 1975; T.L. Haskell, The emergence of Professional Social Science, University of Illinois Press, Urbana-Chicago-London, 1977.
  7. 7. 7 the strengthening of foreign-policy governmental presence, itself an aspect that has been defined «paradoxical» but is actually persistently present in liberal thought. Ferrara, himself «militant and coherent» in expressing his own «liberism», became a protagonist in the Italian dispute on these issues. His general system of thought led him to identify tariff policies with the denial of liberism, while shunning, unlike the Americans, the notion that the expansion of a world free market would trigger the denial of freedom for many countries. With regard to this aspect, in one of his lessons Ferrara was to affirm that after exquisite demostrations the works by American scholars all conclude against freedom of trade, a position they embrace mostly for fear of British trade. Simultaneously, however, Ferrara kept his limpid scientific judgement and appreciated Carey's theoretical contributions: documentary research proves that Ferrara, like Carey, considered the findings of the American economists as tesserae of «classicism», and evaluated them according to their position within the wider European debate on the Ricardian model. This interest in Carey was induced in Ferrara – as already said - upon the reputation the American author enjoyed in Europe for his opposition to Ricardo’s rent theory. Several moments in Ferrara’s life prove this interest: his course at University in 1851-52 dedicated to the distribution theory; the publication of Carey’s work and a number of pages on the comparison between Federico Bastiat and H.C. Carey20; the book written by Cherbuliez21; the Lesson VIII on rent by Pellegrino Rossi, and the book on industry (1848) where Banfield — the “great inventor” with reference to the issue of value and the “importer of continental and American feelings and ideas” — resumes the terms of the controversy between Ricardo and Carey22. 20 Biblioteca dell’Economista, 1-XIII, 1853. 21 BE, 1-XII, 1864. The volume includes a part of the Corso di economia politica of Chevalier; in the Introduction to the volume, Ferrara refers to the “strange rent theory”, which Ricardo “held on to” (p.LXXXVII) and to Cherbuliez (Paris, 1862), who in the chapter Della Rendita mentions the “third school” – namely Carey, Bastiat and Banfield. 22 BE, 1-IX, 1873. The same criticism is shared and explained to students in Italy and in other University classes in that same period. See Francesco Corbani’s lectures from le course of Social Economics in the University of Siena in 1852-1853. In the second part of the first volume, par. 105, he analyses Carey, Bastiat, Rossi, Banfield and mentions Ferrara. Information may have been taken by him also from the work of Antoine-Elysée Cherbuliez, Riche ou pauvre, exposition des acuses et des affets de la distribution actuelle des richesses sociales (Paris 1940), which he mentions.
  8. 8. 8 4. Limits in Ferrara's approach to Carey No doubt the relationship between these two economists gives relevance to critical reflection on some ‘classical’ theoretical ties, a reflection that brings to the foreground some contributions that are typical of traditions other than the Anglo-Saxon. For the Americans this coincides with the maturing of contacts with German speaking economists, which constitutes a distinctive feature of the period we are examining, but in particular brings about future developments for economic science in the United States. Many elements account for his reputation as the leader of an intellectual movement active towards the middle of the century: among others, the sue of his eclectic scientific production, and the ability with which he set up his network of contacts with the international scientific circle. Ferrara's approach to Carey undoubtedly shows its limitations. Just to mention a few examples, Ferrara found it irrelevant — or even negative for the development of political economy — that from the second half of the 18th century in the American colonies a «style» evolved which had some specifically autonomous traits. Furthermore, Ferrara chose not to include in his translations any American contributions which might prove the peculiarity of the US economic development model, even if Carey himself, in his Essay on the Rate of Wage (1835), had dealt with the wage differences between England and the United States, the efficient employment of available workforce, and the substitution of the capital factor with the labour factor in the productive process. Finally, Ferrara is not even interested in the works of the few European economists – like Chevalier and List – who are enthusiastic about the «American spirit» and the American System of Manufacturing, the production of «machines to produce machines» which was already applying the «system of standardization of products and the interchangeability of parts»23. As a matter of fact, neither American nor European economists were particularly concerned about this innovation of the industrial system at a theoretical level24; in fact, they shunned such innovation, as they believed that the State with its organization would irreparably hinder the free development of the economic enterprise within a liberal-individualistic system, and that – according to Mill's perspective 23 Toninelli, 1986. 24 W. Barber 1988, p. 10.
  9. 9. 9 -- pro-innovation interventions would lead to an employment natural resources which would endanger the development of the system as a whole. 5. Innovation in Ferrara's approach to Carey Yet, the limits in Ferrara's approach to overseas political economy do not overshadow a key merit in his commitment to spread and provide commentary on Carey's thought, as also proven by the fact that Ferrara was the first Italian scholar to study the works of US intellectuals held to be integral representatives of political economy. Ferrara assessed Carey's works at a theoretical level, which is itself significantly innovative. Ever since the 18th century the North American scientific milieu had been closely observed for the novelty of its political «model» in particular. This interest had been fuelled by the works of Muratori, Genovesi, Algarotti, Galiani, Ortes, Verri, Carli, Filangieri, and Frisi; by specific contributions in «Politecnico», «Annali Universali di Statistica», and in Viesseux's «Antologia»; finally, by correspondence drafted by diplomats, like Raimondo Niccoli, or travellers, such as Mazzei and Castiglioni25. Ferrara's anti-Ricardian investigation of Carey's theoretical foundations, and his bitter anti-industrialist dispute in Italy, undoubtedly contributed to stirring the attention of the Italian scientific milieu to North American economic thought, which in the second half of the 19th century pursued two main paths: a – Alessandro Rossi's «industrialist» path: from the pages of «Nuova Antologia» Rossi praised Carey as an «eminent» figure and the celebrations of the centenary of the Declaration of American Independence; the latter he juxtaposed to the «funeral of economics» which was taking place in Great Britain during the scientific celebrations for Smith's centenary; b - Salvatore Cognetti de Martiis's «socialist» path, which developed with his first articles in the Seventies and with the translation of works by the «US socialists» in «Biblioteca dell’ Economista». A discordant note on Ferrara's appraisal of Carey was expressed by Luigi Cossa – one of the most influential economists and historians of the second half of the 19th century –, who in 1878 railed against Carey's “theoretical allucinations” as spread by Ferrara. On the dispute between Ferrara and Cossa (who died respectively in ... and ...) little was left, and for decades little was said in Italian historiography. This long 'silence' 25 D. Parisi, 1989.
  10. 10. 1 0 was due, in my opinion, to the fact that a proper analysis of Carey's thought required to be contextualized and connected to another European figure, Friedrich List, who in Italy was a little esteemed economist. It was only after several years, in the above mentioned lessons by Bertolino in 19… and in John Kenneth Galbraith's 1988 book26, that Carey and List began to be studied as the first theoreticians of national productive forces27. Galbraith in particular has clearly sketched Carey's role in the history of political economy by observing that the group of American economists stemming from the activity of Friedrich List in Pennsylvania «was the earliest manifestation of American influence on European economic thought», and that Carey's contribution was remarkable in the debate on Rent as well as -- in line with the tradition which has characterised Northern States' economic thought from Hamilton onwards – for his attempt to attach to the issue of protectionism an «intellectual respectability in face of the logically powerful and theologically passionate case for free trade»28. 6. Carey in his proper scenario I am furthermore convinced that the real novelty in the first decades of the XIX century, in which Carey is embedded, was the publication of the first encyclopedia by an American publisher: the Encyclopaedia Americana. A Popular Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature, History, Politics and Biography brought down to the Present Time, Including a Copious Collection of Original Articles in American Biography. With Francis Lieber as editor, aided by E. Wigglesworth and T.G. Bradford, it was published between 1829 and 1833 by Carey and Lea of Philadelphia29. In order to understand the atmosphere in which this publication was conceived, we must at least remember that in the course of these few decades American economists 26 J.K. Galbraith, 1988, Economics in Perspectives – A critical History, Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston. 27 In this perspective Carey's theoretical contribution can be held to be the basis of the anti- English protectionist policy which Carey himself championed (an issue which will be perhaps soon touched upon by our colleague S. Meardon). 28 Galbraith, 1988, p. 101. 29 Since 1831 (Vol.V) T.G. Bradford was added to Wiggleworth. Blanchard became a member of the Philadelphia publishers in 1835. Vol. IX and XII were published in 1832; vol. XIII in 1833; vol. XIV was edited by Henry Vethake in 1847.
  11. 11. 1 1 drew closer, on the one hand, to the line of classicism represented by Jean Baptiste Say which tended to stress the subjective sides of the economic act and the vision of the phenomena as an “equilibrium system”; on the other, to the setting out of German “economic romanticism”. The 1821 Boston edition (Wells and Lily) of the English translation of Say’s work30 and its fourteen later editions, are single events which reveal the original maturing of economic thought in North America in the first part of the XIX century. This episode is part of a scenario where other events that give a distinctive character to the overall picture on economic thought fit in. Among these, the 1817 publication of Say’s Catechism of Political Economy on behalf of Carey in Philadelphia, who a few years later was to publish the American edition of the writings by Alexis de Tocqueville; also in 1817, the publication of the Treatise on Political Economy by Antoine Destutt de Tracy in Georgetown DC.; the close relations among Destutt de Tracy, Jefferson, and the University of Virginia, where in 1825 Say’s Treatise was adopted, as was to happen later at Harvard University in Cambridge, at Yale as from 1827 and at Brown University in 1828-1829; the critical notes by Biddle and Ricardo, the meetings between Say and Alexander Everett and Jacob Newton Cardozo, and the unexpected flop of the works by Ricardo, Malthus and James Mill, allowing for a few exceptions31. In this context the American pride for their acquired independence clearly emerges; the identity of the American nation is no longer sought in connection with its European roots, but rather coalescing around an “original” vision of the world32. Pace (1946; 1950) believes that while in the age of Franklin relations with Europe were on an equal basis and from Jefferson onwards Europe is looked upon with the interest of an antiquarian, in the XIX century the first proud detachment from these origins takes place. This proud detachment took the form of an attack to what were held to be erroneous theoretical developments in Europe. This was accompanied by cutting criticism of the arrogance of those who studied political economy in Europe; these scholars were attacked for both thinking of possessing scientific truths, and for putting on a mysterious, almost mystical, and pompous attitude when unable to validate their 'truths' by 30 It is in fact the re-edition of the English translation published in London that same year, with additional notes by C.C. Biddle. Its headings are of particular interest: Americanism, Capital, Consumption and, obviously, Political Economy, Smith, Ricardo and Say. 31 On this topic see: Teylac, 1936; Whitaker in Barber, 1988, pp. 15-41; Parisi, 1990. 32 The analysis of the unique features of the intellectual life of the inhabitants of the North American continent is the central topic of the fundamental works by Wolff, 1944 and Curti, 1964.
  12. 12. 1 2 confrontation with reality. The A.E.'s entry for Political Economy concludes with the following statement: « A large proportion of treatises, from that of Adam Smith downwards, by the disciples of this school, seem to bear the same relation to an intelligibile practical development of the causes and phenomena of national growth, wealth and decline, that alchemy does to modern chemistry». From the point of view of political economy this new attitude led the different political groups on the American scene to converge on the famous “Compromise of Revenue Tariff” of 1833, the famous compromise on tariffs that was mainly conceived in the defence of the individual’s safety and property. The two figures who can be considered pioneers from this particular point of view are Francis Lieber and Friedrich List33. The latter, who arrived in the United States in 1825, proved to be able to express brilliantly and effectively the ideas of the circle – the “around the margins” group in the opinion of Galbraith - of the protectionists of Philadelphia, a reference point also for the publisher Carey, the city where in 1827 List published his Outlines of American Political Economy. This is the environment in which the Encyclopaedia Americana came to light, which was actually based on the seventh edition of the Deutsche Real-Encyklopaedie fùr die Gebildeten Stande German Conversation-Lexicon, published in Lipsia by Brockhaus between 1827 and 1829. This source proves to be particularly useful to place “American” thought within the scenario of political economy, since Francis Lieber much extended the descriptions under the headings of political economy, a discipline whose «definition has been a subject of some discussion (...) has had its stages of progress, and some of its professors consider it now to be placed upon as firm a basis, and reduced to a system of rules as completely demonstrated, as that of astronomy since the time of Newton; while others consider the present state of political economy as far below a full development and demonstration of its principles…»34. Henry Charles Carey was the son of the publisher of the American version of the Encyclopaedia. Till the mid-Thirties he was responsible for the selection of books for publication; later, after retiring from business in 1835, he concentrated exclusively on 33 Historiography is particularly exhaustive on the subject. 34 Entry Political Economy, E.A., vol. X, 1835, pp. 217-224.
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