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Being Able to Meet Your Son

The short documentary, I Lived on Parker Avenueis very moving.  As a CNA article by Maggie Maslak explains, it’s about a meeting between David Scottons — who was seconds away from being aborted, but was instead put up for adoption — with his birth parents.

“I hope those who watch will see what the adoption option can do. Without the adoption option, I would not be here today…my parents would not have the gift of their only child; nor would my grandparents have the gift of their only grandchild. That’s what adoption does. It can save lives and build families,” he said.

Moving forward, David plans on “always keeping in touch” with his birth parents, saying, “I am looking forward to seeing my biological sister and half-sister grow up as well.”

Pro-abortion advocates will likely call the film emotionally exploitative and self-serving for the young pro-life advocate at its center, but the subject is inherently emotional.  To warn of exploitation would be to forbid pro-lifers from telling the compelling, true stories that support their views.

The question of whether David Scottons is serving his own interests as an activists gets to a curios rhetorical device that we see often from the left.  On one hand, as we’ve seen with recent school shootings, nobody is presumed to have authority to speak on an issue unless they’ve been personally affected by something.  On the other hand, somebody on the right who advances his or her message through a compelling personal story is presented as trying to cash in.  The common theme, obviously, is that one is never presumed to be advocating in good faith for culturally or politically conservative issues.

Give I Lived on Parker Avenue a viewing.  Then do what you can to find and support similarly compelling productions.  On abortion as on a great many issues, we’re so clearly in the right that the only way we lose the battle of ideas is to back down when we’re attacked unfairly and illogically.

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Some Obvious Observations About Population Growth

Sadly, the modern age sometimes requires us to restate blindingly obvious things, as Glenn Stanton does for The Federalist:

It’s a terribly stubborn demographic truism: Somewhere close to 100 percent of babies never born will never become customers of your business. This is true of the more than 55 million American babies who never made it past the womb since abortion was legalized in 1973. It’s true of the untold millions who were never conceived because a potential mom and dad thought they had better things to do.

Of course, there is an inestimable, inherent worth and dignity to every human life, but we cannot ignore the social significance at play here as well. These invaluable lives-never-realized are a whole lot of missing customers. Not good for business. Not good. Nor will they be paying into social security or pensions to provide your part when that time comes either. …

Many countries have been noting this with tremendous concern for more than a decade. Rather than the apocalyptic “population bomb” which was supposed to wipe out countries and lead to the starvation of millions, the exact opposite has happened. Governments across the world are working hard, and often with desperate creativity, to boost the number of new home-grown citizens in their nations.

Understanding the economic value of people, a society shouldn’t do things like make the public bill for raising children so high the public turns away from it, or use the law to deny unique status to the types of relationships that create children, or perpetuate public policy that drives productive people away.

Unfortunately — in part, but not only, because of that old “population bomb” rhetoric — a strain of belief runs through our civilization that there are simply too many people already.  That belief implicitly implicitly relates to a great many of the issues that vex our public dialogue.  People are bad and racist, so we need to impose restrictions on their free association and speech.  People are a blight on the planet, so they’re causing catastrophic climate change.  People are selfish and ignorant, so we require central planning to take decisions out of their hands.

With such beliefs, the obvious thing probably seems to not have children.

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If There’s a Divisiveness Agenda… It’s Working

I’m inclined to agree with the Boston Herald’s general interpretation of the collusion investigation, but it does make me think how utterly separate the two conceptions of reality are in the United States:

Democrats planted the Russian collusion nonsense, which mobilized intelligence services and activated the Watergate-­level press coverage. The new administration never had a chance to get off the ground. Weeks and months went by and no collusion was found, but some lives were ruined for lying to the FBI in the process. As the special counsel petered out on the matter, the spectacle of porn star Stormy Daniels and her oily attorney on CNN served as a flare to catch the eye of investigators, and the football was lateraled by Mueller to the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, who has just begun a fresh hunt.

And we’re off to the races, with the media trying to make vapor into a solid.

How do we come back from a place in which half the country thinks this is plainly true and the other half thinks it’s delusional and offers up its own “plainly true” interpretation, which the first side thinks is delusional?

In all reality, this is probably nothing all that new, but the problem we face is that we’ve allowed government to become so intrinsic to life that our differences on these things matter.  Not that long ago, Americans could have wildly divergent understandings of reality and still live their lives and even cooperate in everything else.  That’s becoming less possible.

To some extent, yes, this has to do with the Internet, the visibility of people’s opinions, and the immediacy of global communications, but on net, the technology is a positive development.  What we need is a social system that can accommodate this technological evolution, and forcing us to resolve our problems in government at high levels of centralization isn’t likely to prove a productive component of that system.

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Prescription for Nations: Avoid Communism (and Progressivism)

Here’s an interesting — if not at all surprising — finding, pointed out by Alain Tolhurst in the New York Post:

In the first undertaking of its kind, they analyzed the fortunes of 44 countries across Europe and Asia and looked at geography, religion, systems of government and a more intangible quality called “deep cultural ancestry.”

Writing in the journal Royal Society Open Science, they matched these factors against where they ranked on the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures per-capita income, life expectancy at birth and the number of years its citizens spend in education.

Most of the issues they looked at appeared to have little or no effect on the disparities between the countries, except for Islamic countries scoring a little worse on education.

Instead, the single strongest predictor for a country’s health, and the second-strongest for its wealth, turned out to be whether its rulers had embraced communism.

To this, Glenn Reynolds adds:  “Communism destroys social trust — communist governments do this by design — and that does longterm damage.”

Just so, observing progressive-backed legislation at the state level in Rhode Island, one notices a recurring theme of division.  Tenants should assume the worst of their landlords.  Employees should assume the worst their employers.  Families should assume the worst of anybody who has any influence on their children.  These aren’t people interacting with their neighbors toward complementary or shared goals; they’re factions attempting to get the better of other factions.

This division allows the progressives to present themselves (via government) as the people’s representation against their oppressors.  The message is that we need central planners because we cannot possibly trust each other to get along without them.

Add to that the requirement that everything must be political.  Every tweet and transaction should be a statement of the right political philosophy.

This cannot possibly be healthy for a society.

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Benighted in the Enlightenment

Taking recent celebration of the Enlightenment as a cue, Yoram Hazony lays out some of the flaws and consequences from an overly zealous promotion of reason as a guide and source of meaning:

For Kant, reason is universal, infallible and a priori—meaning independent of experience. As far as reason is concerned, there is one eternally valid, unassailably correct answer to every question in science, morality and politics. Man is rational only to the extent that he recognizes this and spends his time trying to arrive at that one correct answer.

This astonishing arrogance is based on a powerful idea: that mathematics can produce universal truths by beginning with self-evident premises—or, as Rene Descartes had put it, “clear and distinct ideas”—and then proceeding by means of infallible deductions to what Kant called “apodictic certainty.” Since this method worked in mathematics, Descartes had insisted, it could be applied to all other disciplines. The idea was subsequently taken up and refined by Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau as well as Kant.

In the popular imagination, the Enlightenment was a sort of stage in intellectual evolution.  To the contrary, Hazony suggests that the driving theories of the Enlightenment weren’t so much unknown prior to that era, but repeatedly rejected because of the obvious dangers.  The breakdown of the family, the lonely solipsism of the modern age, the devastation of secular ideologies over the past couple centuries — these and more grew out of the essentially mystical notion that individuals could tap into some fount of reason.  Gone is the wisdom of the ages and any cultural mechanism for learning and remembering truths that the average Joe or Jane would not bother or be able to conceive after some time with hand on chin.

The “aim” of Enlightenment figures “was to create their own system of universal, certain truths, and in that pursuit they were as rigid as the most dogmatic medievals.”  Like other areas from which human beings strive to derive meaning — such as government and capitalism — reason is really just a tool.  Meaning must come from elsewhere… and will, for better or worse.

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Will We Wake When Treated by Woke Doctors?

This, from a Weekly Standard article by Devorah Goldman, is terrifying:

In 2015, the Association of American Medical Colleges revised the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) for the first time in nearly 25 years, stretching the full exam-day experience from around five hours to eight or more. The test drew attention at the time for its sheer length; less widely noted was the explicitly ideological bent of the new exam.

The AAMC occupies a curious place in the world of medicine. It forms one-half of the only government-approved accrediting entity for U.S. medical schools, and it is solely in charge of administering both the MCAT and the national standardized medical school application. Unlike the American Medical Association, which represents physician groups without exercising much direct control over doctors, the AAMC has immediate and significant authority over its constituent medical schools and academic health centers. And in recent years, it has used this leverage to fundamentally alter the way medical schools assess applicants. …

In that address and others, [Dr. Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of the AAMC,] described the AAMC’s “Holistic Review Project,” which the organization launched in 2007 with the goal of “redefining what makes a good doctor.” The project’s objectives included revising the MCAT and a wide range of other reforms. A series of new guidelines (some of which have yet to be implemented) called on medical school admissions teams to place less emphasis on applicants’ grades, changed the requirements for letters of recommendation, and altered the standardized application by requesting a great deal more information about students’ upbringing and life experiences. The AAMC is also planning to add “situational judgment tests”—carefully crafted interviews in which applicants will be presented with a variety of hypothetical scenarios involving ethical conflicts—to the current admissions requirements. Along with the new MCAT, these changes are part of Kirch’s plan to shift the focus of medical-school admissions toward a “new excellence,” a standard based less on test scores and more on “the attitudes, values, and experiences” of applicants.

Sorry, but I’m much more concerned with whether my doctor knows how my body functions and how to fix it when things go wrong than what his or her attitude and values might be.  Basically, if he or she values my business and my health, I’m good with whatever else he or she might believe.

As progressivism seeks to turn everything in our society to the single goal of political ends, it will seek not only to ensure that progressive doctors and other professionals are available to those who value them, but that no other options exist.

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A Progressive Plan to Give Workers Rights They Already Have

A couple of weeks ago, I expressed support for the notion of employees’ becoming owners of their workplaces, suggesting that the best way forward was to remove government barriers to their doing so.  As WPRI’s Ted Nesi notes on Twitter, progressive Democrat Representative Aaron Regunberg of Providence has a hearing today on his legislation to, as Nesi puts it with reference to Benny’s, give employees “the right to buy the retailer and turn it into a worker-owned co-op, rather than let it shut down.”

Reading the bill, however, I can’t see that it really does much of anything.  When employers are about to take an action that requires them to notify the federal government about a substantial layoff, the state Department of Labor and Training (DLT) would remind the employees that buying their workplace is an option.

The employees would then take a vote on whether to buy the company.  If the vote succeeds, then any employees who are interested would form an entity in order to buy it.  If the vote fails… well… I guess any employees who are interested in buying the company would do exactly the same thing.  In either case, the employer can decline to sell.  In other words, the bill does nothing but give a politician another talking point about supporting “working Rhode Islanders.”

Of course, because it is so ineffectual, one suspects that this legislation would be the foundation for an incremental change that activists think wouldn’t have chance if pushed into law all at once.  In a few years, progressives might argue that too many owners are unwilling to sell for the price that employees are able to pay and remove their ability to say “no thanks.”  Or maybe a state bank would come along, and these sorts of buy-outs would explicitly be given preferential treatment for loans.

Considering the origin of the bill, the safest bet for Rhode Island would be for the General Assembly simply to let it fade away.  In the meantime, we should reinforce a simple truth that progressives seem to want people to forget:  We already have inalienable rights that come from a higher place than the State House, and we don’t need government to step in and claim to be creating them for us, as if from nothing.

After all, if government can grant a group the right to buy a company, it can remove another group’s right to do the same.

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Toward Colleges That Are More than Indoctrination Hubs

Recent events at Providence College came to mind when I read this paragraph from a Rod Dreher post:

By the way, it’s not simply a matter of ideologically capturing areas of scholarship. The SJWs are now marching through student affairs offices. Patricia Daugherty writes at The Federalist about the annual convention of ACPA, the American College Personnel Association: College Student Educators International. This is the professional organization for campus administrators who oversee student life. She recently retired from a long career in the field, and says she always looked forward to going to this convention. Times. Have. Changed.

During recent controversy at (Roman Catholic) Providence College, involving an RA who came under attack for putting up a bulletin board promoting the Catholic teachings on marriage, hostility to the Church’s teachings found succor with Vice President for Student Affairs Kristine Cyr Goodwin.  The student affairs administrator clearly leaned toward the side of criticizing the RA and supporting those who’d reacted aggressively toward him.  At an event endorsing alternative lifestyles, she initiated a “we’re queer, we’re here” chant, as audible on a recording reviewed by The Current.

Thus, the overall impression of the controversy was of some professors and representatives of the Church (including the bishop) taking the RA’s side, administrators taking the other side, and the college president attempting to find the middle ground.  Objectively, in this situation, the administrators are radicalizing the school, which most students probably do not attend in order to be radicalized.

As that dynamic becomes increasingly pervasive, it changes the nature of higher education.  Colleges should be more than simply white collar trade schools, but they should also be more than hubs for the indoctrination of young adults.

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Always Record Revenue, Always a Shortfall

Doesn’t it always seem that government spending goes up and up, and yet officials always claim it’s not enough?  Andrew Malcolm notes that… umm… paradox on HotAir:

According to the Census Bureau, last year alone state and local governments collected a record $573 billion just in property taxes. That’s about $1,759 for each one of the estimated 326 million Americans.

Add to that another record — $386.2 billion — in sales and gross receipts taxes.

And another $405 billion in income taxes.

That’s almost $1.4 TRILLION. Quite a haul for governments. And yet, as the Wall Street Journal reports (subscription), state and local governments are hiking taxes and fees even more, claiming budget crunches.

The bottom line, I’d say, is that we’re just trying to undertake too much of our society’s activity using government.  Even if they are supremely capable and well meaning, those in the public sector are given broad goals and also have to factor in institutional sclerosis and corruption.

Because the goals are both mandated by law and generally unbound by targets or metrics, resources will always be drawn away from their intended use.  And because the people who supply the resources aren’t typically the first beneficiaries of the programs and don’t really have a choice on an individual basis, the business model must be to find ways to pry out more.  The paying customer isn’t being persuaded that he or she should spend more for something, but rather, is being told that government has no choice but to take it.

It’s difficult to imagine an activity in which these features would actually make things happen more efficiently, so they should be considered an inevitable drag outweighed by some other problem, like free riding when it comes to national defense.  At this point, our sense of that balance is way out of whack.

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Fatherlessness, an Out-of-Fashion Problem

There it is again. Joanne Jacobs writes on a problem that it just isn’t fashionable to care about solving:

We track school success by race and family income, but ignore the consequences of growing up in unstable, fatherless families, writes Ian Rowe.

Boys are more vulnerable to fatherlessness than their sisters, when it comes to school misbehavior, cognitive disability, low test scores, dropping out of high school and juvenile crime.

Rowe also cites the newly released study, Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States, which found “higher rates of father presence among low-income black households are associated with better outcomes for black boys.”

Addressing the problem of fatherlessness would require a return to more-traditional values and family structures, and that’s simply not a possibility for people of a certain ideology.  Unfortunately, that ideology controls large segments of our society and culture.

These side effects (as a charitable person would see them) provide a valuable lesson in how we should discern what is good.  Professing an intention to help people is worthless if one’s solutions create worse problems or even, more accurately, barricade the way to the correct solution.

We can consolidate the gains our society has made in areas such as equality without assenting to the deadly ideological virus that has piggybacked on good intentions and infected the body politic.

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The Herd of Rhode Islanders Can Afford to Allow Some Freedom

Some families don’t believe that the fact that their children go to school with other children gives the government the right to force them to take drugs related to sexually transmitted diseases.  Many become more suspicious when they hear of terrible side effects that some appear to experience and observe the overlapping financial interests of state government and company behind the drug.

Mind you:  If the government simply recommended the drug, there would be no problem.  But as it is, dedicated families feel the need to become activists and testify in pursuit of legislation to return their freedom.  On the other end are bureaucrats whose social concern is difficult to entangle from the pursuit of metrics:

Among her arguments against the “personal belief” exemption that some lawmakers are seeking: “The proposed legislation, if enacted, will potentially decrease our state’s vaccination coverage rates, putting people at risk … [especially] those who cannot be vaccinated″ for medical reasons. …

In one letter to the lawmakers, [Director of Health Nicole] Alexander-Scott wrote: “Most vaccine-preventable diseases are transmitted from person to person. When a sufficiently large proportion of individuals in a community are immunized, those persons serve as a protective barrier against transmission of the disease in the community thus indirectly protecting those who are not immunized … This phenomenon is referred to as ‘herd immunity.’”

Good of the government to have such concern about the “herd.”  One doubts that Alexander-Scott highlighted the fact that Rhode Island’s HPV vaccination rate was already high, and that the mandate increased it almost not at all.

That is, acting of their own free will — not as herded cattle — Rhode Islanders were already doing what the government wanted.  Knowing that, one can reasonably infer that making us do things is the point, establishing the principle that we have to go where they think we should.

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International Gangsters in the Land of the Government Plantation

In 2015, I presented Lawrence, Massachusetts, as a cautionary tale of the government-plantation economic model.  Just as industrialists once attempted to draw in foreign labor to the “company town” because it was less expensive, the local government is turning the city into a “government town,” whose main source of income is transfer payments from outside to pay for government services.

Consequently, this recent Boston Globe article caught my eye:

The federal government’s relentless assault on the feared MS-13 street gang in Greater Boston continued this week, with two members of the violent outfit admitting to their roles in the 2015 slaying of a 16-year-old boy in Lawrence, authorities said.

True, immigrant gangs are nothing new to the United States, and homegrown gangs certainly exist.  Still, tracing the arrival of an international criminal enterprise is a necessary task, and one needn’t indulge too much in speculation to propose that using immigration to bolster the population in need of government services leaves a region vulnerable to this sort of invasion.

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A Subtle Distinction on Government Problem Solving

I recently came across this story on regulation in Ohio, and the statement the Republican Senate president, Larry Obhof seems broadly applicable and worth sharing:

Ohio has nearly 250,000 regulatory restrictions in its code, according to research from George Mason University. The study’s authors say this holds back economic growth for industries like manufacturing and health care.

Republican Senate president Larry Obhof says he wants to take a broad look at Ohio’s code to see what they can do to scale back these regulations. He adds that a mindset change is needed for people in the legislature and state agencies.

“Who start the day looking for problems to solve and trying to solve those, and what I’d like to see is a reset where they start the day and some significant number of them are saying can I find a burden that we don’t need that we can get rid of,” said Obhof.

This gets right to the subtle (and detrimental) shift in Americans’ attitude and, perhaps, a chief dividing line between ideologies.  One view is that government exists to solve people’s problems; another is that government exists to remove a limited number of problems from people’s path.

When the goal is to remove problems (like foreign invasion, inadequate basic infrastructure, and so on), the emphasis is much more securely on avoiding causing additional problems in the process.  When we make government a more active participant in the solving of problems, unintended consequences can be written off on account of good intentions — “nobody can solve everything, but at least we tried.”

And when government is a problem solver, there is no boundary.  It should try to solve every problem it can.  When government is just a mechanism to take a few big problems off the table for the public at large, the debate becomes whether something is a problem or an area in which freedom makes it a challenge for the people to resolve among themselves.

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A Lesson in White Privilege

A couple of years ago, I wrote a parody song to the tune of Randy Newman’s “Short People,” titled “Pale People.”  No matter what the challenges of your actual experience might be, one verse suggested, “All a’ that ain’t nothin’ to the color of your skin.”

Well this is an interesting finding, from the left-leaning Brookings Institution:

… Poor minorities (defined here as blacks and Hispanics) face similar—and often worse—poverty-related challenges than do non-Hispanic poor whites. Yet they are more resilient in the face of negative shocks, less likely to report depression or commit suicide, and significantly more optimistic about the future. Part of the explanation is their higher levels of community and family support. Aspirations also matter. Poor blacks and Hispanics tend to report they are better off than their parents were, while many blue-collar whites are facing a reality of downward mobility. Many of their primary occupations are close to extinction, and family structures have weakened significantly (a trend that is associated with the drop in labor force participation).

That’s not surprising.  In the popular culture, which has been taken over by progressive ideology, minorities are to be celebrated.  They’re the future.  They can accomplish anything, and society should give them special advantages to make it so.  Meanwhile, white people, especially white men, are everywhere the villains.  They have to “check their privilege.”  Anything they accomplish is tainted because they are the beneficiaries of oppression.  Government-funded reports insist that the future has darker skin, and we should start changing the communities that government serves now, in preparation.

Based on the interactive graphic on the Brookings page, “poor non-Hispanic whites” in Rhode Island have low optimism relative to the country, high worry, and high pain.  Unfortunately, the statistics for minorities are too small for Brookings to rank them in Rhode Island, but Massachusetts is telling.  Poor minorities in our northern neighbor have among the lowest rates of worry in the country, while their white peers have among the highest rates of worry.

This shouldn’t be a contest; we should be concerned about all of our neighbors.  Unfortunately, progressive identity politics rely on dividing us so we’ll keep handing over power to the truly privileged and powerful.

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Linda Finn Provides an Example for the Definition of Q.E.D.

Conservatives have the same (or a corresponding) tendency, no doubt, but sometimes progressives charge forward in their righteousness in a way that justifies the opposing arguments against which they’re railing.  Former Democrat legislator and gun-control advocate Linda Finn recently offered a fine example on Twitter:

Why, yes, how unreasonable for people to believe conspiracies!  A politician and activist who wants to use government to criminalize a member-supported group that she doesn’t like should perhaps shy away from promoting her opponents’ fear of government as evidence of their insanity.

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Getting Turned Around with Progressive Tax Policies

This story out of Seattle provides a teachable moment on the craziness of the progressive approach to tax policy:

The Seattle City Council will once again consider an employee hours tax that’s being recommended by its Progressive Revenue Task Force, after having rejected such a proposal last November.

Rather than approving the proposal last year, which was projected to generate about $25 million annually by taxing businesses grossing more than $10 million annually 6.5 cents per employee per hour, the council decided to create the PRTF to further explore an employee hours tax, or head tax, and other possible new revenue streams.

The PRTF provides three options for an employee hours tax (EHT) in its recently published final report for generating $75 million in new revenue for creating affordable housing and providing emergency services. It provides several more recommendations for the city council to consider for generating another $75 million in new revenue for $150 million total, which the task force states is still grossly inadequate when dealing with the city’s homelessness crisis, but is a “solid start.”

Even on the progressives’ own terms, this is crazy.  So, a city has a problem with homelessness, and this “task force” thinks the solution is to increase the cost of employing people in the city by up to $150,000,000.

Employment and prosperity are the answers.  Incentives function by making it easier for people to do the thing you want while making it more difficult for them to do the things you don’t.  Now, we can certainly argue about the appropriate amount of meddling for government at each tier (local, state, and federal), but we should at least agree that incentive structures should point in the correct direction.

This would be like taxing gym memberships in order to fund obesity programs or taxing vaping products in order to fund smoking cessation activities.

It’s difficult not to conclude that progressives don’t much care how they get money for government; they just want more of it.  They may not even care all that much about what government does with its windfalls, as long as it’s government that gets to do the doing.

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The Elites’ Preference for Non-Accountability

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