Hayek on the Crisis

by Jerry O’Driscoll

I have an op ed in today’s (Tuesday, April 20, 2010) Wall Street Journal.

I extend Hayek’s argument about prices as information transmitters to other essential elements of a market economy, such as accounting statements and representations made to customers.  Prices and interest prices were distorted in the boom, but so, too, accounting statements and representations made by borrowers to lenders, and lenders to borrowers.

The free market depends on truth telling, the accuracy of information and honest pricing.  Instead, as I argue, we are becoming “An Economy of Liars.”

31 thoughts on “Hayek on the Crisis

  1. I agree. Your argue applies to all information in the market place. Shouldn’t companies be required to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, in *all* circumstances.

    I believe the norm is the reverse. Except for specifically legislated circumstances, companies have no obligation to tell the truth, and indeed, have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to maximize profits, so if lying is the best way to do that, they are obligated to be liars.

  2. Excellent work.

    You’re basically talking about the quality of feedback in a system and your insights can be applied to any number of systems.

    The basic question is whether the system functions on feedback that is close to a true measure (e.g. profit) or not (cronyism).

    I’ve witnessed good businesses decline as management focus moved away from a true measure of profit to less true measures like cronyism or market share.

    K-12 education has removed or deadened its true measures (enrollment, funding, grading, teacher performance) in favor or less true measures like job security, “what research shows” and social promotion.

  3. In reference to Dave Pullin, economists have for a long time distinguished between what has sometimes been called “search goods” and “experience goods.” That is, those goods the qualities and characteristics can more or less be discerned before purchasing the item, and those goods whose qualities and characteristics can only be determined by using them (“experiencing” them) after having purchased them.

    In the first case, the consumer has a relatively high degree of ability to determine whether what is advertised or promised is actually the case before buying the good. In the second case, you find this out, admittedly, only after buying it and using it.

    But in both instances, the seller cannot long misrepresent his product and “deceive” the consumer. And in both instances, the seller risks losing the consumer’s first purchase (in the case of search goods) and his repeat business (in the case of experience goods).

    This affects that sellers brand-name reputation, and the loss of “word-of-mouth” recommendation that goes beyond that original consumer’s evaluation.

    Thus, the market has degrees of reasonable “checks and balances” and “negative feedback” to assure levels of reasonable honesty and “truth in advertising” among sellers in the private sector.

    (With the caveat, of course, that in an imperfect world with imperfect people, nothing is “perfect.”)

    On the other hand, the same types of factors are far less present when government representatives or politicians or economic policy advocates try to “sell” us their policy prescriptions.

    It is far more difficult to first “squeeze” the government policy “fruit” being offered before you “buy” it in the ballot box to see how good it might be. And it is often extremely difficult to even evaluate a policy after the consumer-voter have “bought” it and it has been implemented, due to the different explanations that can be given as to why the policy “failed” to deliver the promised “effect” by those who first advocated it.

    Thus, I worry far less about “lies” and “deceptions” in the private, competitive market (in general) than I do about the smoke and mirrors that are employed in the political arena by those who are often trying to “sell us a bill of goods.”

    Richard Ebeling

  4. Really nice, Jerry. Thanks for that.

    Please allow me to repeat some comments I’ve made here and at Coordination problem.

    In the Dodd bill, the “Financial Stability Oversight Council” would be responsible for identifying financial institutions for “enhanced supervision and prudential standards” (p. 40). The Council would identify institutions whose “material financial distress . . . would pose a threat to the financial stability of the United States” (p. 31). The “considerations” in making such a determination include:

    1) “the amount . . . of the financial assets of the company,”
    2) “the degree of leverage of the company; including the degree of reliance on short-term funding,”
    3) “the importance of the company as a source of credit for households, businesses, and State and local governments and as a source of liquidity for the United States financial system.”
    4) “the extent and type of the transactions and relationships of the company with other significant nonbank financial companies and significant bank holding companies.”

    The last “consideration” is “any other factors that the Council deems appropriate” (p. 32).

    In “Avoiding and Resolving Financial Crises: The Rule of Law
    or the Rule of Central Bankers?” Larry White shows that the rule of law was largely abandoned in favor of the “rule of men” in the Great Recession.

    Click to access White%20EFNkeynote%20Cambodia%2009.pdf

    The Dodd bill would push this trend even further. As far as I can tell, a financial institution should be subject to “micro-prudential standards” (as Janice Yellen has put it) if and only if the Financial Stability Oversight Council says it should be. It is hard to imagine a more complete abandonment of the rule of law in the field of financial regulation.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Will Luther and I discuss some of the issues here:


  5. Great article — you make some good points. The correct approach to an adaptive system (the markets) is certainly not to keep building an ever bigger and bigger apparatus of laws and regulations but to simplify it and target it.

    BTW check out this candidate for congress who believes a lot of what you do:


  6. Richard Ebeling: I am not aware of any economist arguing that there is value in lying, so surely the debate should be about process for avoiding it. You describe “trial and error” – which is the fundamental market process – and wonderful effective in all manner of circumstances. It is most effective in a “commoditized market” (pork bellies, orange juice futures) because the trial and error experiment is reduced to a single variant: price – a “pure bet” in speculators’ terms.

    “Trial and error” fails miserably in where there are many variables. It would easy to pick a combination lock, if the lock announced each time one digit was right, but it is near impossible if when you have to get all the digits right before getting feedback. The difficult rises exponentially with the number of digits.

    The market is trying to squeeze the orange to determine if it is fresh enough to justify the price. But if the market is simultaneously trying to discover whether the seller is lying about the number of oranges in the box, when he will deliver them, whether they are really his to sell, what chemicals have been sprayed on them, and so on, then the market “trial and error” is an extraordinarily, and unnecessarily, inefficient.

    But it is probably OK for buying oranges from a street market.

    But demonstrably not for CDOs, or credit cards, or health insurance or mortgages. Possibly not for a car or house or a computer. Indeed in the uneven battle between consumer and producer, it is easy for the producer to create variations in product and T&Cs that make every transaction the equivalent of picking combination lock. Indeed producers go out of their way to create products that are not easily comparable with a competitor’s, and make it hard to compare even those are comparable.

    There is absolutely no value in permitting lying, or obscuring the truth, to make the market trial and error process yet more inefficient. As Jerry said “The free market depends on truth telling, the accuracy of information and honest pricing.”

  7. Mr. O’Driscoll

    As a businessman who has benefitted from the teachings of Hayek, I read your editorial with high expectations. I was disappointed. Hayek better than anyone understood that the free market depends on caveat emptor, uncoerced transactions, and potential profit which in turn incents truth telling.

    But the concept of caveat emptor is nowhere to be found in your editorial. This spark of the spontaneous which along with uncoerced transactions has proven to be the most effective and efficient finder of truth, and was well known to Hayek. Otherwise you end up with the upside down world of Mr. Pullin who seems to believe some unnamed “system” can compel us all to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth..” And this means that this “system” will know the truth and know it better than the participants in the transaction. Mr. O’Driscoll, who or what could claim such omniscience? Surely this leads us down the road to a bureaucratic nightmare where lies are the coin of the realm.

    You may not have intended this type of interpretation, but I believe asserting that the free market depends on truth telling opens the door to this type of mistake. I agree with Mr. Ebeling when he says: I worry far less about “lies” and “deceptions” in the private, competitive market (in general) than I do about the smoke and mirrors that are employed in the political arena by those who are often trying to “sell us a bill of goods.”

  8. I find the mention of the Goldman ACA transaction quite puzzling. So many throw that out without even bothering to understand what happened.

  9. I found Mr. Pullin’s reply to my earlier comment very interesting, but still not sufficiently persuasive.

    Certainly the nature and type of good (or service) concerned may affect the ability and ease of determining whether someone is trying to “pull a fast one” on me.

    But when left free, open and competitive, the market tends to provide the most effective mechanisms for discovering fraud or misrepresentation.

    For example, at the time of the Enron scandal, Henry Manne argued on the opinion page of the “Wall Street Journal,” for example, that if not for the regulations restricting or preventing “insider trading,” other participants in the market would have been able to get “hints” about dubious management and financial practices in that company far sooner than was the case.

    Rumors, “feelings,” “bits of information” that might have been floating around within the company that something might be “wrong” would have resulted in market sales of stocks owned by some connected with Enron (or their friends) sooner that its market price, in fact, came to reflect the “reality” behind the facade.

    Warning signs would have gone out earlier; some might have been able to get out quicker; and some of its assets might have been more salvageable than the informational delays allowed them to be.

    Again, I want to emphasize that making these comments “in defense” of the market versus greater government regulation of some of these matters does not imply a belief on my part of any “perfect knowledge,” efficient markets hypothesis. In fact, very much to the contrary.

    I just think that theory and practice (history) strongly suggests that the frequency and magnitude of such market disruptions are likely to less under a generally free market, than when government tries to introduce itself into these matters.

    I am not saying that you would say the following Mr. Pullin, but I believe that too many advocates of such government interventions seem to be impervious to history.

    Each time the government attempts to intervene in these ways and things still (or precisely because of the intervention) go wrong, the attitude is often, “Oh, but next time we’ll do it better, and with the ‘right’ people in charge this time.”

    Maybe it should finally be accepted that there IS NO better form of intervention. There is the nature of the market (with its strengths and presumed weaknesses) and there is the nature of government intervention (with its limits and inescapable problems).

    What I am often reminded of, in discussions with the type of people that I am referring to, are those who just could not accept that socialist planning was not going to work.

    “Oh, yes, it failed in the Soviet Union — if ‘only’ someone else than Stalin had been in charge — but don’t worry, it will work better in China . . . Cuba . . . Nicaragua, or on one of the moons revolving around Saturn.”

    At some point, it seems to me, you have to accept that, given the institutional options, the generally free market is the best you’re going to get. And stop trying to implement some sort of government “solution.” It is not likely to make it better, and runs the risk of making the problem worse.

    Richard Ebeling

  10. Efinancial,

    I’m sorry you didn’t like my op ed. But you appear to have understood neither it nor the teachings of Hayek.

    You favor “uncoerced transactions.” Coercion with respect to contract has traditionally meant the absence of (1) force, (2) threat of force, or (3) fraud.

    Caveat emptor was a concept in Roman Law. At English common law, fraud was a basis for rescinding a contract in equity.

    Hayek taught us that law evolves from the rules of just conduct. Fraud has traditionally been viewed as unjust (a form of coercion) and thus its place in Anglo-American law.

    Richard spoke of free markets. I wrote about crony capitalism. Crony capitalism “incents” businessmen to seek rents from political influence, rather than profits from serving the consumer.

  11. Pete Canning,

    Perhaps Goldman will be acquitted in a court of law. I take no position on that. Read the letters in today’s Wall Street Journal on the issue. Especially the one from a former Goldman employee.

  12. Efinancial,
    You correctly observe that you and I live in worlds of opposite orientation. My world contains Bernard Madoff, Enron, Worldcom, etc., which provide me with adequate evidence that profit incents lying not truth telling, as long as you can get away with it.

    You may argue that they didn’t get away with – and of course that would be true, by definition, of all of the ones we know about. But you can’t argue that the weren’t incented to lie.

    Indeed I know of no example whatsoever where successful lying would not yield more profit to the liar than truth telling.

    But in discussion of profit one must distinguish between profit that is wealth creation and profit that is wealth taking.

    The beauty of the free market – that is aggregation of voluntary, informed, trades between self-interested parties – is that forces exact alignment between profit and wealth creation. You cannot profit other than by wealth creation, no matter how “greedy” you are.

    Successful lying let’s you take wealth instead of making wealth, and because it is easier to take than make, greed means you will.

    I neither named nor described a system that might force truth telling. I merely asserted the value of having one, since generally is it good practice to determine what you want before you try to get it.

    In case such a system is beyond your imagination, let me offer the rubrics of one.

    The are two problems, both soluble. One is the determination of what is in true. We have imperfect but acceptable evidence-based mechanisms in science and in the justice system to rule upon what is the truth (and be right a reasonable proportion of the time). But it is expensive and time consuming, and so needs to be a only used as a last resort.

    So the second problem is to incent truth telling without normally invoking the last resort. Since self-interest-based systems can be extremely effective, we could use the one you imagine exists: we make it unprofitable to lie and more profit to tell the truth: the penalty for getting caught lying in a business is must set to be vastly greater than the gain divided by the probably of getting caught.

    Jerry is right “Crony capitalism “incents” businessmen to seek rents from political influence, rather than profits from serving the consumer.” Indeed anything that permits crony capitalist to get profits from anything other competing on price and quality of the product, is a disservice to capitalism.

  13. Personally, I have absolutely zero faith in “a court of law” in this matter (I find the phrase almost laughable). This is a shake down for political purposes. A synthetic CDO requires a long and a short. It was absolutely not unusual for the short to help select the securities. Further, Paulson, being a nobody at the time, it could hardly be considered a material fact that he was the short.

    The morons who were long should have done their own research on the reference portfolio. If any fraud was committed, it was quite minor. At most they ought relinquish any fees they took in from the transaction.

    Far more troubling than an economy of liars is an economy of lawsuits.

  14. I don’t think a court of law is a joke.

    Since I live in Nevada, I do understand these contracts. They are wagers and should be governed by state laws on betting, and not by federal securities laws. They adavance no economic purpose other than that enjoyed by someone betting at a craps table.

  15. Do you feel similarly about futures contracts? Options?

    That is a very simplistic view of the financial markets.

    Paulson’s activity in this market, by reducing demand for traditional CDOs, served to move the market closer to what turned out to be a correct price. This is the role of speculators, and it is a good one.

  16. Mr. Ebeling, I come to praise markets not to bury them. My argument is not intended to be against markets in favor of government, but against bad markets and in favor of good ones.

    To me, the ultimate goodness of a free market is its ability to channel self-interest into wealth creation by maximizing the efficiency of use of scarce resources and delivering genuine choice to people.

    But a market is a tool. When a tool doesn’t get the job done, fix the tool or use a better tool. Government intervention is also a tool, and a extremely dangerous one.

    The important difference between the Soviet Union and the US that yielded dramatic difference in economic performance its “communism” vs “capitalism”, it’s “central planning” vs “free markets”. The nominal ownership of the means of production doesn’t matter. What matters is how decisions are made. A 100 million people can make better decisions than 1, 10, or 1000 people in a smoke filled room. At least this is true where the 100M people have adequate education, information and are beyond bare subsistence living.

    The threat from China isn’t that the figured out how to do central planning well, it’s that they figured out how to do markets well, while we are permitting our markets to become bad – crony capitalism has replaced free markets.

    In the US, if you ship Saloma in peanut butter, or an FDA official favors his former/future employer and people get killed, the whole thing disappears into lawsuits (if it appears at all). In china, they take the offender outside and shoot them. (And if they weren’t guilty it doesn’t really matter because everyone else will believe they are and will get the message.)

    You argue that the market is the most efficient means of discovering the truth. I would guess “Get caught lying and you will be summarily shot dead” is more effective.

    I am not advocating shooting liars, but that’s what we are competing against. We had better invent something as good or better, else we lose. That’s how markets work!

  17. Pete Canning,

    Derivatives are not new and were common by the 1800s. They straddled a security and a wager. Common law courts did not enforce gambling contracts. What to do about derivatives?

    Eventually the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (in Irwin v. Williar in 1884) that one party must hold the underlying asset on which the derivatives contract was based. In economic terms, the contract must be a hedge and not a wager. Otherwise the contract was unenforceable (not illegal).

    UCLA law professor Lynn Stout has written about the issue. The economic effect of the nonenforecability of such derivative contracts was to put them on organized exchanges. That is exactly what is being debated once again.

    Meanwhile states confronted what were known as bucket shops, which offered contracts on the future prices of securities. They were prone to fraud and most states outlawed them. The best source on this is Martin Mayer in The Bankers.

    Dertivatives contracts (at least those that were pure bets rather than hedges) were actually in a legal limbo until the 2000 Commodities Futures Modernization Act. That act exempted derivatives from regulation by either the CFTC or the SEC. It also made all derivatives contracts legally enforecable.

    That act obliterated the distinction between gambling and hedging. It also short-circuited a market solution to the problem of enforcing such contracts: private enforcement through exchanges.

    So now we are debating compelling what would have arguably evolved smoothly on markets: ending the OTC market in derivatives.

    To suggest that derivatives (as presently underwritten) are some natural outcome of markets, devoid of special privilege, is to ignore history and offer a simplistic view of financial markets.

  18. I haven’t had a chance to review the comments above, but please note a powerful difference in legal systems/structures that may affect how economists perceive issues like “truth-telling in the market place.”

    Under the Civil Law systems derived from Roman Law, the maxim of the law in the marketplace is “caveat emptor,” let the buyer beware. That seems to be the standard that a lot of supposed free-market economists would like to uphold in our markets.

    Under the Common Law system derived through centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence, especially after filtering through the debates of the Founding Fathers/Framers and, most importantly, the framers of the state constitutions that followed Independence and then admission into the Union after 1801, the opposite maxim came to be presumptively the norm in the marketplace: Good faith and fair dealing are the presumption, with exceptions allowed where customary only among merchants (not with the general public) in a particular line of goods or enterprise. The Uniform Commercial Code, adopted by state legislatures following the 1950s, assumes up front in Article I that good faith and fair dealing are presumed and that exceptions must be disclosed and consented to.

    On the “customary among merchants” line, the illustration is as follows: A rug merchant buying a rug from another rug merchant is presumed to have the expertise necessary to detect defects. Opportunity to inspect the merchandise is all that is required to satisfy the common-law “good faith and fair dealing” requirement. But when that merchant sells the rug to the public, opportunity to inspect is not enough to satisfy the requirement. A higher standard, involving disclosure of known but hidden or difficult to detect defects is required, and an opportunity to inspect for obvious defects is then sufficient.

    Alas, lying has become commonplace in financial markets. SEC rules were designed to avoid that (disclosure of material defects is required). The harder case is when both parties (buyer and seller) are deluded. The SEC rules require the seller to show that the buyer was a “sophisticated investor” to avoid liability. But the forms that brokers use for this purpose are a joke. An elderly widow on my street essentially was cheated out of her husband’s life insurance proceeds because, when she went in to the broker, he had her sign a form saying that she was a sophisticated investor because she had over $200,000 of liquid assets at the time (just over the then-threshold for SEC). Of course, she did not know investments from Adam. The broker put her into limited partnerships intended for tax avoidance (like airplane leases) when this woman had no conceivable tax liability to begin with. The broker skated free in that case because she had signed the sophisticated investor form without legal advice.

    So it all depends on what kind of markets you want: One like a Middle Eastern rug bazaar, where everyone is known to be lying, or one like most of ours (traditionally), where tarring and feathering were the popular remedy for financial fraud? I’ll take the latter over the former, thank you, for the sake of conforming with Jerry O’Driscoll’s apt quotation of a description of classical liberalism as “anarchy but with a constable present.”

    A secondary consideration in all this is different levels of empowerment/knowledge on the parts of market participants. Legally, the broker in my story was allowed to skate free. But morally, should he have been allowed to skate?

    Aristotle writes in the chapter on justice in the Nichomachaean Ethics that equity (what we would call forbearance) is the highest form of justice because it encourages those who have the law and the right on their side to forbear in exercising their rights for the sake of the well-being of the other fellow. At the same time, he makes clear elsewhere, no one is required to be charitable or to exercise charity to his own great detriment.

    Summing up: Roman Law/Civil Law is “buyer beware.” Common Law/UCC is “good faith and fair dealing are presumed.” You should not lightly kick over the common law tradition for the sake of a few quick bucks in a morally sleazy marketplace. To the extent that economic models seem to want desperately that the Roman Law maxims prevail in a common law country, then there might be something more wrong with the economic models than there is with the law itself.–Walker Todd

  19. Common law and “the market” are almost completely unrelated. Certainly a supreme court decision is a decidedly non-market event. One thing that is absolutely certain, gambling is a market activity. So if you have decided, despite the facts, that derivatives on exchange or off, are some sort of gambling that is completely unimportant. Clearly the parties to this deal would have found a way to get their desired exposure, this was hardly a non market outcome. “Gambling” (as you describe it) is hardly a special privilege.

    As to the economic purpose, the purpose of derivatives is to serve a market demand for them. Further, they DO serve a quite similar purpose as any other market. Had Paulson not offered to short, these bankers would have had to go into the physical market to gain the exposure they desired, further propping up prices of ultimately worthless securities. This synthetic instrument simply created supply where there was demand, and worked out exactly as labeled for all parties involved. And moved the market toward a correct price for these mortgages.

  20. Mr. O’Driscoll

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. And you are correct, I have not studied all the teachings of Hayek. So I will leave Hayek out of my comments and simply say that as a busnessman it seems clear that it is a mistake to claim that truth telling is a prerequisite to a “productive free market.” No such requirement is necessary and in fact will only lead to the endless legislative debates about “truth telling” and a never ending delay in allowing a free market.

    Worse, pursuing “truth telling” as if it were one of Plato’s forms simply misguides people into the belief that they can legislate reality. If we just find the “truth tellers” and empower them all will be OK. The market will work smoothly and powerfully to meet the needs of the people. Nothing could be further from the truth because empowering “truth tellers” is what incents crony capitalism. This should be abundantly self evident from the colossal failures of the “truth telling” politicos of the 20th century (not to mention the first ten years of the 21st century).

    Simply stop giving the power to the “truth tellers” and it will flow back to the people as the market evolves spontaneously and caveat emptor will re-emerge. It is a natural concept discovered by human interaction unlike fraud which is a legislated concept created by man to be used to bail out a decision that had a bad outcome. I am not advocating lying, in fact I am suggesting an action that will be more successful in minimizing lying which is what happens in a market full of people practicing buyer beware. (Think of trying to hijack an airplane full of passengers each carrying their own gun.)

    Ultimately, the free market is about action and the truth is to be found in deeds not words.

  21. Mr. O’Driscoll

    I assume your reference to the WSJ editorial is in response to P. Canning. But I am not sure what you mean by “on target.”

    The editorial itself seems to simply suggest a slightly new form of crony capitalism. So are you offering this as an example of people not telling the truth which you suggested leads to crony capitalism?

  22. “the key point is that the synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO) at issue was nothing more than an elaborate wager on the future price of some mortgage-backed securities—a wager with as much economic utility as a gigantic bet on a roulette wheel or a horse race.”

    Comments such as this are incredibly misguided, and show ignorance of some of the most basic economic concepts, supply and demand for one. The problem was that banks wanted exposure to overvalued assets, not that they bought synthetic CDOs. Ultimately, had there been MORE synthetic CDOs the crisis could have been much more muted. The issuance of synthetic CDOs allowed smart money to express a negative view on an over-valued asset. Buyers of the synthetic CDOs were able to get exposure to the market there rather than buying non-synthetic securities.

    This increased supply of mortgage market exposure would serve to decrease the value of those securities. This would have decreased the incentive to create non-synthetic mortgage securities and ultimately reduce the ability of mortgage brokers to push crappy mortgages onto the market.

    The fact that these securities were bespoke rather than exchange cleared is hardly material in this case as the chief utility of exchange clearing (in this case) is the reduction of counter party risk. Such risks were not an issue here, as Paulson was clearly able to profit handsomely.

  23. Mr. O’Driscoll

    In the second half of the editorial, Ferguson and Forstmann debunk the myth that the financial crisis was caused by deregulation in three very good paragraphs. yet they conclude with: “By all means let us regulate the derivatives market..”!?

    After thoroughly discrediting regulation they end by embracing more of it. Regulation that will require a powerful bureaucracy that will invite lobbying and more crony capitalism.

    This confusing line of thought doesn’t even include the paragraph pointed out by P. Canning, which I agree shows a shocking ignorance of basic economics. But then Ferguson is a History prof at Harvard.

    So my question, what did you mean by “on target”?

  24. I agree with the causes of the crisis. I take the authors want simple rules for a complex world. That is the only approach that can work.

    If you don’t think there are problems with counterparty risk with derivatives, then you are in denial. The crisis, once it began, is all about counterparty risk (Bear, Lehman, AIG, etc.).

  25. You fail completely to address the points at hand. In hindsight, there was not a counterparty risk issue with these synthetic CDOs. Paulson clearly took on a risk, counterparty risk was one of them. He was proved correct. Niall, and you seem very far from reality on this.

  26. I wrote generally. You’re fixated on this one deal. In any case, the fact a deal didn’t blow up or a bank didn’t fail does not mean there was no risk.

    I’ve made all my points and don’t intend to respond further on this topic.

  27. You didn’t understand the deal, you should not have mentioned it. This is part of a broader problem that was far more at the root cause of the crisis. People speaking “generally” about issues they do not understand. It goes to the heart of the piece.

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