Philosophy of Economics

Edited by Anna Alexandrova (Cambridge University)
Assistant editor: Jack Wright (Cambridge University)
About this topic
Summary Philosophy of economics is a study of any philosophical issue that arises in connection with the discipline of economics. Currently it has three core areas: foundations, methodology and ethics. Foundations of economics encompass conceptual and metaphysical questions such as the nature of rationality and social ontology, seeking to clarify what we study when we study economics (preferences, individuals, institutions, societies etc?) and their properties and relations to each other. Methodology of economics, following on the traditional questions in philosophy of science, is concerned with the nature of knowledge that can be attained about the economy and its sources.  The ethical side of philosophy of economics is a study of normative issues such as justice, efficiency, equality, welfare, paternalism, coercion and such, that arise at the intersection of political philosophy and welfare economics.
Key works Daniel Hausman is responsible for kickstarting much of contemporary philosophy of economics. Hausman 2008 is a comprehensive encyclopedia article. Hausman 2007 is an anthology of classic essays from to J.S Mill and Marx to the present day. Hausman et al 2006 is a seminal study of normative assumptions in economics and their critical study. Hausman 1992 started and still informs many discussions in methodology of economics. Reiss 2009 presents an updated agenda. Mäki 2001 is a collection on the ontology of economics.
Introductions There is now a textbook in philosophy of economics: Reiss 2013. Other good introductions to philosophy of economics are just introductions to philosophy of social science: for example, Rosenberg 1995, Risjord 2014, and Elster 2007.
Related categories
Subcategories:
See also:History/traditions: Philosophy of Economics

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  1. Welfare Theory, Public Action, and Ethical Values: Revisiting the History of Welfare Economics, Roger E. Backhouse, Antoinette Baujard and Tamotsu Nishizawa (Eds). Cambridge University Press, 2021, Ix + 338 Pages. [REVIEW]Cyril Hédoin - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):326-332.
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  2. Frame It Again: New Tools for Rational Decision-Making, José Luis Bermúdez. Cambridge University Press, 2020, X + 330 Pages. [REVIEW]Fay Niker - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):320-326.
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  3. Rational Responses to Risk, Paul Weirich. Oxford University Press, 2020, Xi + 269 Pages. [REVIEW]Ittay Nissan-Rozen - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):309-314.
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  4. The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy, Stephanie Kelton. Public Affairs, 2020, 325 Pages. [REVIEW]Gabriele Contessa - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):315-320.
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  5. Unravelling Into War: Trust and Social Preferences in Hobbes’s State of Nature.Alexander Schaefer & Jin-Yeong Sohn - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):171-205.
    According to Hobbes, individuals care about their relative standing in a way that shapes their social interactions. To model this aspect of Hobbesian psychology, this paper supposes that agents have social preferences, that is, preferences about their comparative resource holdings. Introducing uncertainty regarding the social preferences of others unleashes a process of trust-unravelling, ultimately leading to Hobbes’s ‘state of war’. This Trust-unravelling Model incorporates important features of Hobbes’s argument that past models ignore.
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  6. Enough is Too Much: The Excessiveness Objection to Sufficientarianism.Carl Knight - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):275-299.
    The standard version of sufficientarianism maintains that providing people with enough, or as close to enough as is possible, is lexically prior to other distributive goals. This article argues that this is excessive – more than distributive justice allows – in four distinct ways. These concern the magnitude of advantage, the number of beneficiaries, responsibility and desert, and above-threshold distribution. Sufficientarians can respond by accepting that providing enough unconditionally is more than distributive justice allows, instead balancing sufficiency against other considerations.
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  7. Equality or Priority About Competing Claims?Shlomi Segall - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):242-265.
    According to the Competing Claims View we decide between alternatives by looking at the competing claims held by affected individuals. The strength of these claims is a function of two features: how much they stand to benefit by each alternative, and how badly off they would be in its absence. The view can be, and is, endorsed by both egalitarians and prioritarians. For the former the second condition will concern looking at how badly off the person is relative to others, (...)
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  8. What is Partial Ambiguity?Loïc Berger - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):206-220.
    This paper reflects on the notion of partial ambiguity. Using a framework decomposing ambiguity into distinct layers of analysis, among which are risk and model uncertainty, and allowing for different attitudes toward these layers, I show that partial ambiguity may prove less desirable than full ambiguity, even under ambiguity aversion. This observation poses difficulties for interpreting the notion of partial ambiguity in relation to the partial information available to determine the potential compositions of an ambiguous urn. Two Ellsberg-style thought experiments (...)
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  9. Life as a Trust Game: A Comment on The Option Value of Life.Gregory Ponthiere - 2022 - Economics and Philosophy 38 (2):300-308.
    According to Burri, a major reason why suicide is often irrational lies in the option value of life. Remaining alive is valuable because this allows for a larger menu of options, and the possibility of committing suicide in the future adds further value to the act of remaining alive now. In this note, I represent life as a trust game played by two selves – the young self and the old self – and I argue that the possibility to commit (...)
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  10. Relative Priority.Lara Buchak - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-31.
    The good of those who are worse off matters more to the overall good than the good of those who are better off does. But being worse off than one’s fellows is not itself bad; nor is inequality itself bad; nor do differences in well-being matter more when well-being is lower in an absolute sense. Instead, the good of the relatively worse-off weighs more heavily in the overall good than the good of the relatively better-off does, in virtue of the (...)
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  11. Pearl Before Economists: The Book of Why and Empirical Economics.Nick Huntington-Klein - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-9.
    Structural Causal Modeling is an approach to causal inference closely associated with Judea Pearl and given an accessible instroduction in [Pearl, J., & Mackenzie, D.. The book of why:...
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  12. Electronic Coins.Craig Warmke - 2022 - Cryptoeconomic Systems 2 (1).
    In the bitcoin whitepaper, Satoshi Nakamoto (2008: 2) defines an electronic coin as a chain of digital signatures. Many have since defined a bitcoin as a chain of digital signatures. This latter definition continues to appear in reports from central banks, advocacy centers, and governments, as well as in academic papers across the disciplines of law, economics, computer science, cryptography, management, and philosophy. Some have even used it to argue that what we now call bitcoin is not the real bitcoin. (...)
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  13. Justice and Egalitarian Relations, Christian Schemmel. Oxford University Press, 2021, 321 Pages. [REVIEW]Gina Schouten - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-7.
  14. Should Market Harms Be an Exception to the Harm Principle?Richard Endörfer - 2021 - Economics and Philosophy (2):221-241.
    Many proponents of the Harm Principle seem to implicitly assume that the principle is compatible with permitting the free exchange of goods and services, even if such exchanges generate so-called market harms. I argue that, as a result, proponents of the Harm Principle face a dilemma: either the Harm Principle’s domain cannot include a large number of non-market harm cases or market harms must be treated on par with non-market harms. I then go on to discuss three alternative arguments defending (...)
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  15. Fixed Interest Rate.Justin Fuoco - manuscript
    This is a suggestion for a predictable economy.
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  16. Can Commitments Cause Counterpreferential Choices?Michael Messerli & Kevin Reuter - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-13.
    Commitments are crucial for our lives but there is no consensus on how commitments and preferences relate to each other. In this paper, we present three empirical studies that provide evidence that...
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  17. Better Vaguely Right Than Precisely Wrong in Effective Altruism: The Problem of Marginalism.Nicolas Côté & Bastian Steuwer - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-18.
    Effective altruism requires that when we donate to charity, we maximize the beneficial impact of our donations. While we are in broad sympathy with EA, we raise a practical problem for EA, which is that there is a crucial empirical presupposition implicit in its charity assessment methods which is false in many contexts. This is the presupposition that the magnitude of the benefits generated by some charity vary continuously in the scale of the intervention performed. We characterize a wide class (...)
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  18. Unifying Theories of Institutions: A Critique of Pettit’s Virtual Control Theory.Frank Hindriks - 2022 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (2):166-177.
    To unify rival theories is to combine their key insights into a single coherent framework. It is often achieved by integrating the theories and forging new connections between their explanatory fac...
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  19. Review of an Advanced Introduction to Feminist Economics. [REVIEW]Julie A. Nelson - 2022 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (2):178-180.
    In fewer than 200 pages, Joyce P. Jacobsen, a long-time feminist economist and current President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, skillfully summarizes feminist contributions to economics acro...
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  20. Darwinian Rational Expectations.Kobi Finestone - 2022 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (2):113-123.
    The rational expectations hypothesis holds that agents should be modeled as not making systematic forecasting errors and has become a central model-building principle of modern economics. The hypot...
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  21. What Preferences for Behavioral Welfare Economics?Till Grüne-Yanoff - 2022 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (2):153-165.
    Behavioral welfare economics assigns different roles to preferences than either non-behavioral forms of welfare economics or theories outside of the domain of welfare economics. In particular...
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  22. What’s (Successful) Extrapolation?Donal Khosrowi - 2021 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (2):140-152.
    Extrapolating causal effects is becoming an increasingly important kind of inference in Evidence-Based Policy, development economics, and microeconometrics more generally. While several strategies...
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  23. Three Accounts of Intrinsic Motivation in Economics: A Pragmatic Choice?Blaž Remic - 2021 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (2):124-139.
    This paper argues that the concept of intrinsic motivation has been used by economists in inconsistent ways because the underlying theories of intrinsic motivation, imported into economics from psy...
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  24. Introduction to the INEM 2019 Special Issue.Luis Mireles-Flores, Magdalena Małecka & Caterina Marchionni - 2022 - Journal of Economic Methodology 29 (2):111-112.
    The 14th Conference of the International Network for Economic Method was held in Finland at the University of Helsinki, from 18th to 21st of August 2019. It was the second time the biannual...
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  25. Sen, Amartya.Sanjit Chakraborty - 2022 - Encyclopedia of Business and Professional Ethics.
    Amartya Sen’s remarkable endeavour to realize the normative capability of welfare economics goes beyond the impecunious resultants of the neoclassical welfare economy. The neoclassical welfare economy decoratively bracketed values to speculate about factual observations. This was due to the influence of logical positivists and their convictions about experimental scientific statements (primarily mathematical) and their vicinity to empirical truths and analytic statements. Sen adequately inquires “whether morality can be expressed in the form of choice between preference patterns rather than between actions” (...)
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  26. When the “Realism of Assumptions” Mattered: Milton Friedman's Critique of the Phillips Curve.Marcos Picchio - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 94:8-16.
    In this paper I challenge the pernicious aspects of Milton Friedman's methodological outlook that continues to hold sway over mainstream neoclassical economists. I do this by showing how Friedman's own methodological dicta could have been used against him when he famously advanced the expectations critique of the Phillips curve at his presidential address to the American Economic Association. I use this case study to further suggest that psychological and neurophysiological data should not be deemed irrelevant to economic science.
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  27. Philosophy of Economics and the Significance of Economics to Philosophy: Introduction to the Topical Collection "Philosophy of Economics".Łukasz Hardt & Marcin Poręba - 2021 - Filozofia Nauki 29 (3):5-7.
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  28. Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Economics.Conrad Heilmann & Julian Reiss (eds.) - 2022
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  29. Rationality: What It is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters.Enrico Petracca - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-5.
    Periodically, by a rough estimate twice per decade, a new popular book aspires to shake our common understanding of rationality. Since this concept is not only the backbone of normative analysis in...
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  30. The Problem of Low Expectations and the Principled Politician.Sam Schmitt - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-22.
    Nobel laureate James Buchanan downplays any theory of ethical politicians, focusing instead on rules which economize personal restraint, setting lower moral expectations. Through a constructive critique of James Buchanan’s work, I argue these lowered expectations come at a cost: degraded character in politicians, leading to constitutional decay. Buchanan lacks a theory to address choices between action which furthers the politician’s self-interest and action which protects some already accepted, good rule, but which does not further their self-interest. I generate a theory (...)
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  31. Does Utilitarianism Need a Rethink? Review of Louis Narens and Brian Skyrms' The Pursuit of Happiness.Heather Browning & Walter Veit - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-5.
    Philosophers have typically shown high confidence in their evaluations of Utilitarianism, whether as an endorsement or a disparagement. Rarely, however, has much effort been spent on investigating...
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  32. It Takes a Model to Beat a Model.Hsiang-Ke Chao - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-5.
    When the methodology of economics first emerged as a distinct field of economics in the 1970s, historians of economic thought contributed greatly to its development. This is visible in the publicat...
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  33. A Deeper Struggle for the Soul of Economics.Sheila Dow - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-4.
    Kevin Hoover explores retroduction as a means of theorizing in macro-economics, rather than exclusive reliance on deductivism or inductivism. Retroduction is discussed as involving conceptualizatio...
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  34. Transparent Players: The Use of Narrative Voices in Game Theory.William C. Grant - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-12.
    This paper examines methods for narrating consciousness in game theory. In order to represent how players process their environment, posture towards one another, and hold themselves accountable to...
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  35. Interdisciplinary Influences in Behavioral Economics: A Bibliometric Analysis of Cross-Disciplinary Citations.Alexandre Truc - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-35.
    Interdisciplinarity in behavioral economics has often been described as limited or decreasing since the 1980s. In this article, we investigate the interdisciplinary influences of behavioral ec...
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  36. Economics is Converging with Sociology but Not with Psychology.Don Ross - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-22.
    The rise of behavioral economics since the 1980s led to richer mutual influence between economic and psychological theory and experimentation. However, as behavioral economics has become increasing...
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  37. Nash Meets Samuelson: The Comparative-Statics Interpretation of Nash Equilibrium.Marek Hudik - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-13.
    This paper suggests that Nash equilibrium can be interpreted as a conceptual tool for addressing comparative-statics issues on an aggregate level. Together with additional assumptions, Nash equilib...
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  38. Philosophy of Economics: A Heterodox Introduction.Oliver Schlaudt & Adrian Wilding - 2021 - Routledge.
    Philosophy of Economics: A Heterodox Introduction provides an introduction to the philosophy of economics through the prism of heterodoxy. Heterodox economics covers a range of approaches and schools of thought but what they have as a common denominator is the conviction that economic phenomena cannot be understood, and thus must not be studied, in isolation from their relevant context. Conversely, the current form of neoclassical economics emerged from the conviction that there is something like economic rationality sui generis which can (...)
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  39. Nash Meets Samuelson: The Comparative-Statics Interpretation of Nash Equilibrium.Marek Hudik - forthcoming - Tandf: Journal of Economic Methodology:1-13.
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  40. Interpersonal Comparisons of What?Jean Baccelli - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    I examine the once popular claim according to which interpersonal comparisons of welfare are necessary for social choice. I side with current social choice theorists in emphasizing that, on a narrow construal, this necessity claim is refuted beyond appeal. However, I depart from the opinion presently prevailing in social choice theory in highlighting that on a broader construal, this claim proves not only compatible with, but even comforted by, the current state of the field. I submit that all in all, (...)
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  41. Expected Utility in 3D.Jean Baccelli - forthcoming - In Reflections on the Foundations of Statistics: Essays in Honor of Teddy Seidenfeld.
    Consider a subjective expected utility preference relation. It is usually held that the representations which this relation admits differ only in one respect, namely, the possible scales for the measurement of utility. In this paper, I discuss the fact that there are, metaphorically speaking, two additional dimensions along which infinitely many more admissible representations can be found. The first additional dimension is that of state-dependence. The second—and, in this context, much lesser-known—additional dimension is that of act-dependence. The simplest implication of (...)
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  42. Economists, University Rankings, and Leaving the European Union, by M*L*N K*Nder*.Terence Rajivan Edward - manuscript
    In this paper, I present some responses to an argument made by an economist in an online video: that when Britain leaves the European Union, it will be taking many high ranking universities with it, which will lead to an innovation deficit in the union. I present some responses by means of a pastiche of a widely read European fiction writer.
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  43. L’analyse axiomatique et l’attitude par rapport au risque.Jean Baccelli - 2016 - Revue Economique 2 (67):355-366.
    Cette note épistémologique porte sur le statut, en théorie de la décision, des concepts d’attitude par rapport au risque. A première vue, l’analyse axiomatique ne les exploite pas, ce qui reflète une certaine neutralité des modèles de décision au sujet de l’attitude par rapport au risque. Mais un examen plus poussé met en valeur la variation conditionnelle et le renforcement de l’attitude par rapport au risque, qui rattachent les concepts d’attitude par rapport au risque à l’analyse axiomatique.
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  44. Which Choices Merit Deference? A Comparison of Three Behavioural Proxies of Subjective Welfare.João V. Ferreira - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-28.
    Recently several authors have proposed proxies of welfare that equate some choices with welfare. In this paper, I first distinguish between two prominent proxies: one based on context-independent choices and the other based on reason-based choices. I then propose an original proxy based on choices that individuals state they would want themselves to repeat at the time of the welfare/policy evaluation. I articulate three complementary arguments that, I claim, support confirmed choices as a more reliable proxy of welfare than context-independent (...)
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  45. The Economics of Immense Risk, Urgent Action and Radical Change: Towards New Approaches to the Economics of Climate Change.Nicholas Stern & Joseph Stiglitz - forthcoming - Journal of Economic Methodology:1-36.
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  46. Philosophy of Economics: A Retrospective Reflection.Daniel M. Hausman - 2018 - Revue de Philosophie Économique 2:185-202.
  47. What Preferences for Behavioral Welfare Economics?Till Grüne-Yanoff - forthcoming - Tandf: Journal of Economic Methodology:1-13.
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  48. The Marketplace of Rationalizations.Daniel Williams - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-25.
    Recent work in economics has rediscovered the importance of belief-based utility for understanding human behaviour. Belief ‘choice’ is subject to an important constraint, however: people can only bring themselves to believe things for which they can find rationalizations. When preferences for similar beliefs are widespread, this constraint generates rationalization markets, social structures in which agents compete to produce rationalizations in exchange for money and social rewards. I explore the nature of such markets, I draw on political media to illustrate their (...)
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  49. Comparing Rubin and Pearl’s Causal Modelling Frameworks: A Commentary on Markus.Naftali Weinberger - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-9.
    Markus argues that the causal modelling frameworks of Pearl and Rubin are not ‘strongly equivalent’, in the sense of saying ‘the same thing in different ways’. Here I rebut Markus’ arguments against strong equivalence. The differences between the frameworks are best illuminated not by appeal to their causal semantics, but rather reflect pragmatic modelling choices.
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  50. A New Puzzle in the Social Evaluation of Risk.Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber - forthcoming - Economics and Philosophy:1-16.
    We highlight a new paradox for the social evaluation of risk that bears on the evaluation of individual well-being rather than social welfare, but has serious implications for social evaluation. The paradox consists in a tension between rationality, respect for individual preferences, and a principle of informational parsimony that excludes individual risk attitudes from the assessment of riskless situations. No evaluation criterion can satisfy these three principles. This impossibility result has implications for the evaluation of social welfare under risk, especially (...)
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