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Mats Kaarbø

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Why Basic Income should become a Human Right

The U.S. Basic Income Network define Basic Income as, "...an unconditional, government-insured guarantee that all citizens will have enough income to meet their basic needs." http://basicincome.org/bien/aboutbasicincome.html

This program could eliminate poverty resulting in a more predictable and stable society as crime and violence would decay.

It could also move innovation beyond traditional employment as everyone would have access to the necessities of life by a basic income thus economic flexibility.

It could, in addition to deliberate automation, diminish the work hours for full-time employers, giving people more time to friends and family and activities that enrich their lives thus increasing quality of life.

It would in fact save significant costs by liquidating cumbersome and bureaucratic government agencies, to a much simpler program that could be automated.

Furthermore, since there is no means test; the richest as well as the poorest citizens would receive it which could manifest a positive psychological effect in people to spend less and appreciate leisure, which is ultimately good for the environment.

An example of a 'mini-basic income' is the Permanent Fund Dividend which in an annual individual payout to Alaskans. Though the payout is relatively small and only annually distributed, it still goes to show that this kind of program is being used today: http://pfd.alaska.gov

Research from Namibia revealed that the introduction of a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) led to an increase in economic activity which contradicts critics' claims that the BIG will lead to laziness and dependency. Learn more about it here: http://bignam.org

Namibia had amazing results in a number of other things as well, namely poverty reduction, which is a pivotal point in and of itself, and a reduction in crime rate by 40%. Now, imagine what a global basic income guarantee could do.

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    Oct 17 2012: Strongly disagree. This attitude fosters the sense of entitlement and kills the sense of gratitude and the desire to do good things to others in return for the good things they do to us.

    Nobody owes us a living (including God). When charity comes from heart, and not from government mandate, it is much more abundant. Forced redistribution of wealth is just legalized robbery. It fills the "givers" with bitterness and resentment and deprives "recipients" of gratitude. When we feel that society "owes" to us, we are never satisfied, no matter how much we receive.

    We are not entitled to "happiness", but to "pursuit of happiness".

    I believe, such program will have just the opposite effect on society than what you describe. As another utopic idea, I would advocate abandoning all mandatory entitlement programs altogether and handing them off to charities. Private individuals are far better and more efficient in taking care of each other than the government.
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      Oct 17 2012: Sadly, I can only say the same thing back to you and find your worldview quite dystopian in fact. Tell me. Why aren't we entitled to happiness? Why shouldn't everybody have the same access to goods and services for a good life? Why should only a few selected ones have the fruits of life and others not? Is the current economic system really the only thing worth striving for? Is this all we can do? Let's keep having poverty, war and human suffering in the sake of pursuing happiness at the expense of others? I find that utterly disgusting and not acceptable.

      By the way, do you have ANY statistics that shows 'private individuals are far better and more efficient in taking care of each other than the government'?
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        Oct 17 2012: Re: "Why aren't we entitled to happiness?"

        We are. We need to realize it, stretch our hand and take it. Happiness cannot be "given" or "mandated". It's an internal state, mostly, independent of material conditions of our existence. It's like faith. You either have it or not. No amount of material evidence will suffice. It's a Zen concept. Read about the "National Grouch Day". http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/National_Grouch_Day It's a joke, but each joke has a share of truth.

        Re: "Why shouldn't everybody have the same access to goods and services for a good life?"

        They do. They just have to stretch their hand. "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find." If one sits there and feels like a victim, while others are pursuing their happiness, who is to blame? I don't say that disabled people have to go and earn the living. We must help each other. But it must come from the heart. Mandated charity does no good. People often do not realize their own potential and refuse to act simply because they do not believe in their own abilities and consider other people greedy, evil, etc. I do not like to blame "the 1%" for exploiting "the 99%". This division of people into "good" and "bad" buckets only causes strife. Of course, immoral and unfair practices must be punished, but most billionaires did not steal their wealth and give a lot to charity.

        Who and how will determine what "basic income" means? Is having a vacation in Hawaii a basic necessity? Some think, it is...

        As for the efficiency of the private sector in helping people in emergency vs. FEMA, here are a few links. I don't think, reliable statistics on private help can be found.

        http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/perspective/perspective-hurricane-katrina-government-versus-the-private-sector/

        http://www.akdart.com/katrina2.html

        http://www.justice.gov/criminal/katrina/docs/09-04-07AG2ndyrprogrpt.pdf

        http://www.justice.gov/criminal/katrina/docs/09-04-07AG2ndyrprogrpt.pdf
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          Oct 18 2012: So, what you're essentially saying is that you would rather risk your life pursuing happiness instead of creating a safe and stable environment that is both predictable and at your best interest?

          Look. Basic Income Guarantee is more than just being humane and giving a hand. This program would essentially eliminate poverty thus most human suffering. From a strictly pragmatic point of view, it is about decreasing crime and violence, which is the number one by-product of poverty, thus destruction. Second of all, it is about increasing quality of life for everyone, by granting anybody, who are willing and capable, access to participate in society and their environment. This is a far better and efficient way to do it, than restricting people's participation to their purchasing power.
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        Oct 18 2012: Mats, this has been done before. Read about the history of the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Same basic ideas. You propose to create a wealth redistribution system - "rob the rich, give money to the poor" - Robin Hood style or "Expropriate the expropriators" - Lenin style
        http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Expropriation+of+the+Expropriators
        Another entitlement program - search internet on the problems of the Social Security system in the U.S. and entitlement programs in Europe. Or the history of French Revolution.

        These systems go bankrupt and corrupt within less than 100 years. I share your enthusiasm for ending the poverty and suffering, but let's check the reality. How is your proposal different from the Soviet system? Who will pay the bill to guarantee this "basic income"? Unless most of the people VOLUNTEER to do that, laws, taxes, and government mandates won't work.

        Read this book to get a different perspective.
        http://mises.org/books/thelaw.pdf

        In reality, getting rid of all entitlement programs would be another extreme. Some balance must be maintained as in everything else.
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          Oct 18 2012: "Mats, this has been done before. Read about the history of the Soviet Union and other communist countries."

          The reason why communism failed was because it wasn't implemented globally and constant pressures from the free-market capitalist countries made it difficult for these systems to take root and give people from the outside world any chance to see the system in effect - coupled with the obvious propaganda the free-market capitalist countries had taken into effect to ensure that people would stay ignorant to such systems.

          "How is your proposal different from the Soviet system?"

          Again, a Basic Income Guarantee becoming a human right would be implemented globally and not nationally.

          "These systems go bankrupt and corrupt within less than 100 years."

          That is assuming that we will have and want a monetary system forever. With technological advances the need for monetary exchange is being more and more irrelevant. This is because of the abundance technology creates. Read the book "The Best That Money Can't Buy" by Jacque Fresco to see how we can live without money.

          "Who will pay the bill to guarantee this "basic income"? Unless most of the people VOLUNTEER to do that, laws, taxes, and government mandates won't work."

          Hopefully, people will see the necessity and benefits by implementing such a program.
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        Oct 18 2012: Mats, the Soviet system collapsed not because of the pressure from the free market states, but because people were alienated from the means of production and the fruits of their labor. The system created a huge apathy, lack of motivation and lack of personal responsibility. All property was considered "communal" i.e., nobody's in particular and was up for grabs for anyone who had access to it. Government positions responsible for distribution of the goods were coveted and held by corrupt cronies of other corrupt officials. Do you think, North Korea and Cuba are in economic dumpster because of the pressure of the free market? Read about conditions in China before they implemented the reforms. Corruption and work conditions are still a problem there.

        People's mentality needs to change globally and naturally, without force. Love for the neighbor cannot be forced.

        I can take a look at the book you quote. However, I do not think the world is ready to abandon money. Perhaps, it will some time, but it must happen naturally. Mandating such changes through legal system has never worked.
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          Oct 19 2012: Yes.
          “People's mentality needs to change globally and naturally, without force. Love for the neighbor cannot be forced.”

          It is a process of changing our souls.
          Soul contains instinct data and acquired data.

          Changing these data in our brain is a very slow process of cell-growing, which needs long, long time polypettion.
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          Nov 3 2012: "Mats, the Soviet system collapsed not because of the pressure from the free market states, but because people were alienated from the means of production and the fruits of their labor. The system created a huge apathy, lack of motivation and lack of personal responsibility."

          How was people alienated from the means of production and the fruits of their labor? Could you elaborate on this? I thought communism was all about the working people. And why do you think this creates a huge apathy, lack of motivation and lack of personal responsibility?

          "Do you think, North Korea and Cuba are in economic dumpster because of the pressure of the free market?"

          You do realize that Cuba has a total embargo from importing anything from Unites States, right? Now, if that isn't a direct pressure from a free market state, I don't know what is.

          "People's mentality needs to change globally and naturally, without force. Love for the neighbor cannot be forced."

          I wholeheartedly agree, and this is why people has to be educated about the benefits of a Basic Income Guarantee that would serve society as a whole and ultimately themselves.
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        Nov 4 2012: Re: "How was people alienated from the means of production and the fruits of their labor? Could you elaborate on this? I thought communism was all about the working people. And why do you think this creates a huge apathy, lack of motivation and lack of personal responsibility?"

        Mats, in the Soviet Union, private property of farmland or means of industrial production was illegal. All means of production belonged to the state. The idea was that such ownership would inevitably create exploitation. The food produced in collective farms and products produced in the factories also belonged to the state and were distributed administratively. The idea of central distribution and planned economy was to avoid ups and downs of capitalist economy. Private enterpreneurship was also illegal and officially frowned upon as desire to enrich oneself at the expense of others. Most people made living being employees of the state. No matter how hard one worked, the salary remained the same. Productivity was rewarded by celebrating high producers in the newspapers or company meetings. In a sense, the system was about working people. A factory worker sometimes had larger salary than a university professor, a doctor, or an engineer. Is it just? Administrative positions responsible for distribution were coveted and corruption was (and still is) rampant. I don't "think" that the system creates apathy and lack of responsibility. I saw it. I grew up in Soviet Ukraine.

        Read about collective farms in Russia created forcefully by Stalin. Voluntary kibbutzim in Israel were more successful, but they seem to be in decline as well. Here are a few links to give you the idea. In Russia, collective farming was screwed up from the beginning. The article about kibbutzim has a good review of various problematic aspects.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QaLReKDtko
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcumJNNX0qc
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_farming
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz
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          Nov 4 2012: First of all, thank you for clearing that up. However, comparing Basic Income to communism is not fair, because a Basic Income doesn't work in any shape or form like the Soviet did. A Basic Income would merely be a policy or human right in this case, that would be agreed upon through a global referendum or what have you, that says that all humans are entitled to an unconditional income for their necessities of life. Unlike communism, a Basic Income would move innovation and work in general beyond traditional employment (both private and state) making it far more decentralized, but at the same time ideal for sharing ideas and collaborating. It would also liberate people to pursue the things that really matters to them or what the free market capitalists talks about, the pursuit of happiness. If that isn't economic freedom, I don't know what is. It would also open the door for more automation of boring, repetitious and dangerous jobs and labor, both private and state, because work and labor is now being redefined as a result of a Basic Income. Who wouldn't want that? It is also unsustainable for the environment to have a 100% work force and a Basic Income would, like I said, move work beyond traditional employment easing the stress on the environment.
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        Nov 5 2012: Re: "However, comparing Basic Income to communism is not fair, because a Basic Income doesn't work in any shape or form like the Soviet did." -- I must be missing something. Aren't you proposing a system of administrative redistribution of wealth?

        Re: "A Basic Income would merely be a policy or human right in this case,..." -- First, "basic income" is a fuzzy concept. Does it include an annual family vacation? (I already asked this question) Second, we may declare that every human has a right to live in a palace. Unless we provide funds to guarantee this right, such declaration would be irresponsible. Third, such declaration would foster irresponsibility, because everyone will demand a palace regardless of their contribution.

        Re: "... that would be agreed upon through a global referendum or what have you, that says that all humans are entitled to an unconditional income for their necessities of life." -- Have you read this book? http://mises.org/books/thelaw.pdf. When you propose a measure that would benefit 95% of the people at the expense of the other 5%, I have little doubt that it will pass. The remaining 5% will then be exterminated physically or financially or will hide their assets, and the system will go bankrupt. You propose to create a huge public liability, worse than those that drag down European economy right now.
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          Nov 5 2012: "I must be missing something. Aren't you proposing a system of administrative redistribution of wealth?"

          Yes, but Soviet never really did that, did they? Sure, they nationalized most of the means of production, but how much of that can you really expect go back to the citizens if there is no system that regulates the surplus of exports? Of course there will be corruption in such environments with little to no regulation. In this sense, communism is equally as bad as free market. Furthermore, I am against forcing anybody into labor they don't wish to partake, I am pointing out the fact that a Basic Income would LIBERATE people from traditional notions of work. A Basic Income would _guarantee_ that people got their share of their cake. Be it by financing it through publicly owned energy production or taxation reforms.

          Look this is more than just economics, its about principles. It should be a human right to have free access to necessities of life regardless of your situation. Something less is a thing of the past. We have the technology to liberate people to do things that really matter and to also enjoy leisure and spark innovation to new heights. It should be considered a privilege to partake in society in the quest to improve yourself and the rest of humanity, not self-interest on the expense of others.

          Basic Income is neither fuzzy or hard to understand, its only the lack of information or the lack of willingness to learn new concepts that hinders you from realizing the benefits. Partly because of your seemingly indoctrination in age old economics of the past that serves no relevance to our surroundings and partly because of the emotional attachment you have to these same ideas. Therefore it is almost impossible for me to persuade you or make you realize the benefits in these small spaces on TED if you don't do any research yourself. So I urge to read more about it, before making anymore claims or assumptions about it.
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          Nov 5 2012: "When you propose a measure that would benefit 95% of the people at the expense of the other 5%, I have little doubt that it will pass. The remaining 5% will then be exterminated physically or financially or will hide their assets, and the system will go bankrupt. You propose to create a huge public liability, worse than those that drag down European economy right now."

          Did you really say at the _expense_ of the other 5% and justified it? Holy shit. If 95% of the population benefited from it it should be celebrated, not looked upon as a threat to the remaining 5%.
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        Nov 5 2012: Re: "It would also liberate people to pursue the things that really matters to them or what the free market capitalists talks about, the pursuit of happiness."

        Once people get a taste of comfortable living without work, they get addicted. You would think, they will use the opportunity for education and personal devevlopment. I doubt. Why bother? I know a person who has 4 children. His small salary allowed him to qualify for a government program that paid his rent. When he received a job offer with a double salary, he rejected it, because he would lose his benefits. I know children from well-to-do educated families who quit colleges for low-income jobs and drinking with buddies. I know quite a few young people who miss opportunities they have because they lack motivation or self-esteem. Read how people use their lottery winnings.
        http://www.smartmoney.com/invest/stocks/why-lottery-winners-go-bankrupt-1301002181742/

        Re: "It would also open the door for more automation of boring, repetitious and dangerous jobs and labor, both private and state, because work and labor is now being redefined as a result of a Basic Income."

        There is a reverse side of the medal. Automation removes low-skilled labor from the market and raises the education requirements for entry-level jobs, thus creating fewer opportunities for young people.

        Mats, the idea may sound great, but, in my opinion, it fails basic reality checks. I believe, feeling of entitlement CREATES poverty. People who see themselves as producers and contributors never lack basic income.
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          Nov 5 2012: "There is a reverse side of the medal. Automation removes low-skilled labor from the market and raises the education requirements for entry-level jobs, thus creating fewer opportunities for young people."

          Thus a Basic Income to compensate for all the 'lost jobs', that in reality will not be missed. Do you really think people strive for low-skilled labor? Of course not. So, people can now spend their time on either reeducation (if they choose to) or simply begin innovating and exploring more creative sides of themselves, which in and of it self creates positive societal values and an increase in cultural diversity. They could also enjoy leisure, a seemingly foreign concept to most free market capitalists...
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        Nov 5 2012: Re: "Basic Income would LIBERATE people from traditional notions of work. A Basic Income would _guarantee_ that people got their share of their cake."

        Mats, when people are "liberated" from work, there is no cake to share. One needs to work to get the cake. Cakes don't fall from the sky or grow from a tree. Even if they did, one would need to pick them up and put in their mouth.

        Your idea is EXACTLY Marx's idea of communist society. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." -- Marx
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_each_according_to_his_ability,_to_each_according_to_his_need

        Here is a quote from Wikipedia: "Marx delineated the specific conditions under which such a creed would be applicable—a society where technology and social organization had substantially eliminated the need for physical labor in the production of things, where "labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want".[9] Marx explained his belief that, in such a society, each person would be motivated to work for the good of society despite the absence of a social mechanism compelling them to work, because work would have become a pleasurable and creative activity. Marx intended the initial part of his slogan, "from each according to his ability" to suggest not merely that each person should work as hard as they can, but that each person should best develop their particular talents."
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          Nov 5 2012: "Mats, when people are "liberated" from work, there is no cake to share. One needs to work to get the cake. Cakes don't fall from the sky or grow from a tree. Even if they did, one would need to pick them up and put in their mouth."

          Liberated from traditional NOTIONS of work, not work itself. People would still need and WANT to work, but with a Basic Income and more automation, people would at the same time redefine work as a concept and evolve it to something beyond the traditional occupations we have today, like low-skilled labor and even medium-skilled labor, which would be automated, so that people could focus on important and enjoyable stuff that enrich their lives. That has always been the premise for technology since the beginning. To make life easier and liberating.

          Frankly, I don't want people to waste their talent and human ingenuity on useless jobs that could be done by a machine way more accurate and efficient than humans. That is highly unproductive in both a social and economical sense.

          "Your idea is EXACTLY Marx's idea of communist society."

          Keep my principals/philosophies separated from a Basic Income. They are not the same. Sure, many of my _principals_ may be similar to Marx's ideas, but that doesn't automatically mean that a Basic Income is affiliated with communism. If you still feel this way however, please pin point me where Marx talk about the concept of Basic Income, meaning an unconditional income.
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        Nov 5 2012: Mats, here is a verbatim quote from Marx:

        "In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!"

        http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm

        Isn't this what you are talking about? Perhaps, Marx did not use the exact term "basic income", but this seems to be exactly what is meant by the phrase "to each according to his needs", isn't it?

        Perhaps, Marx's ideas are prophetic. It is very possible that society will reach this happy time. I'm just not sure which will come first - communism in Marx's understanding or the kingdom of heaven. They seem like the same thing to me.
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        Nov 5 2012: Re: "Did you really say at the _expense_ of the other 5% and justified it? Holy shit. If 95% of the population benefited from it it should be celebrated, not looked upon as a threat to the remaining 5%."

        Mats, when 5% of the population is robbed and exterminated for the "benefit" of the 95%, there is nothing to celebrate. Perhaps, you have heard about Gulag and Auschwitz.
        • Nov 5 2012: "Mats, when 5% of the population is robbed and exterminated for the "benefit" of the 95%, there is nothing to celebrate. Perhaps, you have heard about Gulag and Auschwitz."

          They're not getting exterminated, in fact they'll get a guaranteed basic income as well! .They're also not being robbed, they're just asked to return stolen goods to the rightful owners, the people who actually produced all the goods instead of moving their trustfund money around, calling that an investment and claiming that was the single most important step in the production process (if resources weren't concentrated in the hands of a few to begin with there would be no need for rich investors either, it's just a scam where a few people rig the system to ensure demand for what they're selling).

          It also has nothing to do with communism, communism sought 100% employment, not a basic income, it also did not allow for private entrepeneurship, while private entrepeneurship can exist in a basic income society. There is also no reason to assume a basic income society cannot be a democracy. Such strong comparisons to the Soviet Union show a lack of imagination, as if it is a law of nature that any system that is not capitalist must be communist.
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        Nov 5 2012: To: John Smith Re: "They're also not being robbed, they're just asked to return stolen goods to the rightful owners, the people who actually produced all the goods"

        I guess, "robbed" and "stolen" comes down to the definition of ownership. Let's say, you come up with an idea of a product, invest your resources into product development, take risks to borrow money to finance your business idea, hire workers to implement YOUR idea and YOUR plan, sell the product and make profit (or, which is equally or, even, more probable, fail and go bankrupt). Do you say that the hired workers who get their salary regardless of the success of the whole enterprise, are the rightful owners of the product? If they want to be, they should assume the same risks as the enterpreneur and, perhaps, forsake their guaranteed basic income to share the potential pay-offs of the success, and, inevitably, the losses associated with the failure.

        Should people who take unjustified risks be guaranteed a "basic income"? That painfully reminds the recent bail-outs of the failed banks in the U.S.

        Anyway, I don't say, it has to be like the Soviet Union, I don't say that it's impossible or that society will never reach such stage. I just say that it doesn't seem plausible in the current social, economical, and moral conditions. I may be missing something, but this idea doesn't seem to fit what I know about humans and economy.
    • Oct 18 2012: Arkady.

      "We are not entitled to "happiness", but to "pursuit of happiness".

      Of course you are entitled to happiness. What a foolish thought to believe or think you or anyone else is not.
      So limiting thinking that way.

      Cheers
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        Oct 18 2012: If you read my note below, I explain my thought (I hope). We are entitled and we can get it any time - just need to claim it. If we don't nobody will "give" it to us. Same applies to human rights or freedom. We have no rights until we claim them. This is how it worked during American revolution, in times of MLK, and this is how it works with Miranda rights also. And this is why it does not work in Iraq.
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      Oct 19 2012: I think:
      Happiness comes from "the short-time feeling of things a-step-better for keeping our DNA alive" whether it "entitled" or "pursued".
      e.g. sun rise, raining during drought, cool breeze in hot summer, ..

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