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To Mooch or Not To Mooch?

Posted by strugatsky 2 months, 1 week ago to Ask the Gulch
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In a society where most work, produce and don't mooch, the moral choice to be a producer is an easy one. But picture a society where the majority steal, cheat, mooch, and rarely produce. Perhaps like in Atlas Shrugged America or today's America. In the Atlas case, the moral solution was an escape. To the best of my knowledge (or perhaps abilities), this is not possible here and now. So, what is the morally correct action - to continue to produce to prop up and support the moochers, or join the moochers? Maybe not morally, but in actions, for any other choices do not seem possible. Or are they? Thoughts?


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  • Posted by  $  jbrenner 2 months, 1 week ago
    If you are financially able, retirement (the Dan Conway option) is a reasonable option.

    But for me, even though at age 52, I am financially able to retire, I would be bored to death.

    Although there are many moochers left in America and I refused to produce during the Obama era, I have found a home in Melbourne, Florida where there are very few moochers and not many looters. Moreover, we barely were able to keep the looters and moochers from elsewhere in the state and country at bay, so overall, I am in as healthy an economic climate as I am in a weather climate. It's not perfect. For example, today it is lightly drizzling, and economically, we have our occasional setbacks, too. However, overall, if you choose to evade the looters and moochers by moving here, you will be in a very hospitable place in every way.

    For instance, we had a Maker Faire in nearby Palm Bay yesterday. Maker faires are events where you see robots, 3D printers, and lots of future John Galts. If there were a real Galt's Gulch, maker faires would be a very popular festival. I was recruiting future Galts for Florida Tech and showing off our privately funded makerspace education initiative.

    After the faire, I went back to the lab and found an Arabic student of mine who is a worthy apprentice as an engineer, but also an entrepreneur. He and two others had pitched me a couple of months ago on a company idea that is merit-worthy but not quite ready for the venture capitalists. They have identified their market need well, but not established sufficient barriers to entry for competitors nor have they put together a detailed business plan. Ten minutes of our mentoring conversation was about establishing barriers to competitors' entry. He already understands well the philosophy necessary to prosper very well.

    After the Arabic student and I discussed the computer code we are writing to accompany our hazardous operability study of my tissue engineering test bed research project that will be the initial product of a new company I am starting, he made a well thought out offer to become a minor partner in my company. In addition to the expected sweat/mind equity, he told me that instead of the usual graduation gift of a car that many students ask for upon graduation, he was making an elevator pitch to his (very wealthy) parents for a loan (not a gift) to help kickstart the company's future.

    I am considering him for this year's Francisco D'Anconia award for my Nanotechnology Minor Program, but ... he has some pretty stiff competition.

    Needless to say, I am optimistic.
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    • Posted by bobsprinkle 2 months, 1 week ago
      I also am a Melbourne resident. Melbourne/Eau Gallie was a great place to grow up in the 50's/60's. But like the rest of the world it has grown into something different. I am off subject. Just a shout out.
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      • Posted by  $  jbrenner 2 months, 1 week ago
        The Melbourne area is still a great place to be. I'll invite you to our next Gulch meetup. There are a couple others just north of here, and several of us met when freedomforall came for a visit a couple of years ago.
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        • Posted by mccannon01 2 months, 1 week ago
          I know we touched bases in the past, but never met. My father-in-law that lived in New Smyrna Beach passed away and the family sold the property so I haven't been to the area in a while. However, my brother just got a place near Titusville so if I ever get down that way can I send you a shout to see if anything interesting is on the calendar? The Faire and Gulch meetup both sound interesting as does what you are doing at the college (if you give tours to retired programmers, lol).
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    • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
      Being financially able solves a lot of life’s problems. However, even as a philosophical exercise, what should one do, on moral grounds?
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      • Posted by  $  jbrenner 2 months, 1 week ago
        On philosophical grounds, you have to make a determination of whether or not the looters and moochers are annoying pests or a serious distraction to your productivity. Atlas Shrugged refers to looters on your back. This implies that the looter is more than a mosquito-like annoying nuisance. In most cases, I find that a little bug repellent is sufficient.
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  • Posted by freedomforall 2 months, 1 week ago
    Large corporations move their IP to low tax jurisdictions just as they move their manufacturing to low labor jurisdictions. The moral thing to do is to reduce to a minimum the amount of your production that is looted. In a way that is what the strikers did in AS.
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    • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
      As an individual, who is not a business owner, one has only two choices - to continue to work and “donate” much of the earnings to support others, often lavishly, or to quit and mooch off the ones that haven’t quit yet. The moral high ground of “continue to produce regardless of others” is an inequitable position, as it is utterly unfair to voluntarily enslave yourself. As it is utterly unfair to enslave others by mooching off of them. So what is the answer, which I suspect is somewhere in middle?
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      • Posted by freedomforall 2 months, 1 week ago
        You have the choice of starting a business, too. It may be difficult but it is another choice and it can be done outside the USA in lower tax regime. There are other costs instead of taxes, but they are mostly voluntary costs. The strikers moved to another regime. If it is important to you, you can do the same, although the rules will be very different from the ones in the US. There are trade-offs. The free market is not as orderly as a cartel. To get liberty you will have to deal with other issues and complications.
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        • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
          I don't think it's realistic or even prudent for most people to start a business in another country. Having traveled a bit myself, I believe that an average American will be cleaned out in most countries in a very short time. Not only are the legal rules different, but the human interactions are completely different. An American in most of the world is seen as a credit card stuffed tit that needs to be milked until dry. Just my advise for anyone contemplating an investment in other countries. Perhaps if one has family in the other country, knows the language and is familiar with the culture, there might be a chance. Or if you're part of a large corporation that has hired the best local lawyers to advise and protect itself. Also, the tax and regulation structure in other countries is often worse than the US, just structured differently.

          But I am very interested in the theoretical solution to my question - what is the moral thing to do, if only the two choices are available? Even if the solution is not perfect (I don't expect it to be), which is the lesser of the two evils?
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  • Posted by starznbarz 2 months, 1 week ago
    My position is this, Im over 60, childless and own my property outright. I own the road I live on, which means I pay for and install the frequent repair materials, I am self employed. That recipe cooks up to paying taxes for schools I never use, road repair, ( both in property taxes and fuel taxes) not to mention because Im self employed 15% of gross wages goes to SS that upon retirement will pay me back roughly $800 a month less than the average "refugee" that just got here. I earn under $50,000, last year, after about $4000 in deductions, I still wrote a check for over $700 to the bandits without a gun. Add to that health care premiums of $400+ because I must purchase on the open market as an individual, and I still get up at 4 A.M. and go to work when I could simply fake some injury, or tell the govt. Dr. I`m an alcoholic, or addict and take my seat on the gravy train. I do not for the simple reasons I have no problems passing a mirror, or sleeping, I know and that is enough.
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  • Posted by chad 2 months, 1 week ago
    I tried to rationalize mooching when I was much younger, not that I thought it was morally correct, I just wanted to get back some of the money that is being drained from me and free government grants seemed to provide such a method. I did research it and found grants to discover why garbage men are tired at the end of the day ($300K), the couple who had written the report stated that it was very physical work without many benefits such as air conditioning, heating in winter. I thought; 'I'm clever enough to have written that and it wouldn't have taken me six months to write the report'! Although I did flirt with the idea and tried to justify it mainly to myself I never did indulge.
    Understanding the drive for 90% of the people to be involved in collectivism I still think it would be absurdly easy to participate in the program as a political leader or power broker. I would rather be broke and trying to get by on my productive work while preventing as much theft from me as is possible.
    Still, it is tempting to think of someone like the Clintons who have never produced anything, provided no services and are worth over $100M.
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    • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
      In a rational world, the moochers and the looters would have been drowned outright. But we are so far outside of the boundaries of rationality, that I believe different laws of physics have to be applied. We are in a world that is standing on its head, with all values reversed. To pretend otherwise is insanity. Yes, Kira lived and breathed as a free person for a moment, but died shortly afterwards. "We The Living" is a stronger and more realistic work for me than "Atlas"; there was no magical escape, just reality. So, is the choice to take one's last free breath and perish (along with your family), or to dissolve oneself among the moochers until the system collapses?
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  • Posted by term2 2 months, 1 week ago
    How about take what you can get up to the amount they are stealing from you
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    • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
      Yes, that would be very fair. How does one determine it? Pretty much impossible, isn't it?. When you think about it, every government employee is at least 90% moocher, while many are outright looters. What about hard working, conscientious people employed by private enterprises that spend 40 hrs/wk wasting resources to fulfill the government looters' requirements? How does one get that back?
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      • Posted by term2 2 months, 1 week ago
        You are right that its difficult to do accurately. I just add up all the inflation of my accumulated wealth, income taxes, wealth taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes, fuel taxes and license fees that I have to pay, and use that as the amount I will willingly take back in medicare costs, EBT (if I can get it), welfare (if I can get it). Thats not strictly accurate, but its good enough for me. I do get a certain amount of benefit from the roads, so that one might be considered a wash.

        As to unemplyment insurance, its paid by my company under duress, so I think the company should put that on their ledger. But they dont. If If can get a benefit from it, I would take it and count it against the amount stolen from me.

        I think the government is so far ahead in the theft of my wealth, I hardly need to even keep close track. I will just take what I can get.
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        • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
          The reality seems to be that with wholesale looting and mooching going on all around us, it seems to me that proclaiming a moral pedestal is to either willfully ignore reality or an excuse for one's inertia, as opposed to moral conviction. I posed a narrowly defined question, yet almost no one is willing to answer it directly. The question was meant to be uncomfortable; it was meant to burst the bubble that we are in here. I don't know, term2, if your answer is correct or not, good or bad, but, in my opinion, it is realistic. Out of our self-blown bubble, and I commend you! For years now, I have watched this group repeat the same lines; they've become talking points. And slipping further away from a think tank that it was meant to be (or I thought that it was). Moral choices and moral strength comes from hard choices, where neither outcome is perfect. The Kobayashi Maru was a cheat (of course I loved the movie). Sophie's choice was more realistic. That is the discussion that I was hopping to spark.
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          • Posted by term2 2 months, 1 week ago
            I always thought that the purpose of philosophy was to help us each to make the best choices for our lives. In short, philosophy NEEDS TO ACTUALLY WORK IN PRACTICE. Objectivism isn’t just another religion to be blindly obeyed. We each have to make up our own minds, and should
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  • Posted by Eyecu2 2 months, 1 week ago
    I have chosen to work from the inside and hope to save some few of the next generation. By working as a school teacher.
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    • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
      Perhaps that is one of the better choices, if you can survive in today's school system.
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      • Posted by Eyecu2 2 months, 1 week ago
        Many days it is extremely difficult. Owning to the repugnant behavior exhibited by so many teenagers today. Added to the ridiculous policies pushed down from on high by administration. The one shining light is that I do get through to some few. I have my Geometry students reading AS as an additional assignment for extra credit. The administration is unaware of the assignment but they do require that I offer opportunities for students to get extra credit outside of my normal curriculum.

        The ridiculous thing that I do to earn the extra credit is I ask 1 simple question. If they can answer it they get the full credit if not nothing. MY question is, "Who is John Galt?"
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 2 months, 1 week ago
    As a "seasoned citizen" I suppose I am technically now a moocher by some persons' rationale, though I worked for over 40 years to get here. I spent 20 years in the military, dutifully paid my Social Security and Medicare tab, and socked away enough in a well-balanced 401K plan that I am in the upper 10% of earners.

    I've used my fiscal well being to help others, mainly family and friends, and have provided unpaid technical advice to various aerospace and other people with technical questions. Being relatively healthy, I've been a full time caregiver for my wife, and even helped on occasion with appointments and such for her ex-husband, who has serious medical issues.

    The question I have for the Gulch is whether or not a former producer should be lumped in with the others who we call moochers, because the programs that benefit us are now lumped in with all the other social programs under the heading of "entitlements?" I'm not at all resentful or angry when people point out how relatively well off senior citizens who are now not producing are compared to a younger group saddled with outrageous student loan debt and high medical expenses. I'd like to find a way to help those younger producers gain the sense of security that they will be as well cared for when they "age out" of the production system.
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    • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
      In my opinion, taking SS or unemployment money is not mooching or looting. We have paid (or was stolen from us) roughly three times more that we will ever get back. And we didn't have any choices in this formula. Yes, the entire process is criminal, but if you are forced to pay three times more for a dinner than it's worth, that is not a reason for you to not eat it at all (though you may not much enjoy it). But since my attempts to force a discussion along the Socratic method is not succeeding, let me offer an alternative - should a person accept (or remain in) a government job? I don't think that there is any controversy that most of what government employees do is either wasteful and inefficient (mooching) or outright hurts the economy, as in enforcing crippling regulations (looting). Yet, the person in question diligently puts in the time and effort, often to the detriment of the productive part of the society.
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  • Posted by LibertyBelle 2 months, 1 week ago
    Personally, I have been on Social Security a few years, which I never wanted to be, but I didn't have a job, although I have been trying to get one. I am not proud of it; but then I think, a lot of these young tax-payers voted for Obama and the welfare state, so they have kind of asked for it. Still, it is not the way I want to live, and I am still trying to get a job and support myself and pay my own rent.
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  • Posted by citizen1 2 months, 1 week ago
    Never mooch. Accept help when needed from one another. Free will includes giving to each other to help- recieve it if needed. But mooching is taking when you are able to produce for yourself. Its an issue of what you allow yourself to become. Morally- a person should do for themselves what they can, help those they choose to help. Trust God for the rest. As a producer, there will always be those who feed off of your work. It would be exhausting to attempt to stop it all from happening. Its when the enjoyment of the fruits of your labor are eclipsed by the theft of them by others that its time to drop out- and there's a lot of rural land in our country to allow for that, if a person wants to badly enough.
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    • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
      The essence of my question is in a later comment to jbrenner: "In Rand’s version, there was a [convenient] escape mechanism. I am taking the Socratic approach. With no escape options, no retirement, no personal business or bank deposits. The Socratic method is to force a decision given two extremes. Then we can discuss the middle ground." I posed a very direct question, hoping to channel a discussion along those lines. What I am seeing in all of the comments are attempts to avoid the direct question. In a society that takes away all that it can from a producer and gives it all away to moochers, turning producers into the face of evil, while honoring theft, and presenting it, as we can see around us, as the standard, should an individual be a modern Don Quixote, or should he [perhaps] devolve into Leo of "We the Living"? It is worth keeping in mind that Don Quixote was insane, while Leo at least survived. And should a person enter into voluntary servitude to achieve... what? In our current environment, I believe that these are relevant questions. The purpose is not to justify any pre-determined personal action or inaction (as some here indicated), but to establish a sane and defensible moral avenue. Unfortunately, escapes to Pacific islands or retirement on stashed millions do not resolve the moral issue.
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  • Posted by mia767ca 2 months, 1 week ago
    i'm retired now...in the prep mode for the coming collapse...and 90% die off...if I live that long...feel bad for my son and grandchildren...it's a numbers game...one we can't win until the numbers come down..
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    • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
      No, 90% are not going to die off. Even under communism, 90% did not die; but they were 100% miserable.
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      • Posted by mia767ca 2 months, 1 week ago
        the financial collapse is coming...when?..i do not know...but this is the 4th Fed...the other three caused a financial collapse of the system back when 90% of the population lived on a farm...this time 90% would not know how to survive beyond 3 days...it is coming...not if...but when...under the Obama administration, they came within 48 hours of shutting down all the ATMs and banks in the country...we came that close to it 10 years ago....read Timothy Geithner's book (1st sec of treasury under Obama)….
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        • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
          Yes, I believe that too - the system will collapse. It is illogical and unsustainable. But the species will not die off - we lived under various conditions, from cannibalism to monarchy. The species will go on, just that it is a shame to have evolved so much and to now voluntarily throw it all away. A shame.
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  • Posted by  $  jbrenner 2 months, 1 week ago
    If an Objectivist were to mooch, would that be even more extreme than what Galt, D'Anconia, and Danneskjold did?
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    • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
      In Rand’s version, there was a [convinient] escape mechanism. I am taking the Socratic approach. With no escape options, no retirement, no personal business or bank deposits. The Socratic method is to force a decision given two extremes. Then we can discuss the middle ground.
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      • Posted by  $  jbrenner 2 months, 1 week ago
        Perhaps this is why I have never been a big fan of the Socratic method. If I like neither of two options, then I invent a third in much the same way that Capt. James T. Kirk devised an alternate solution to the Kobayashi Maru.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobayas...
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        • Posted by  $  CaptainKirk 2 months, 1 week ago
          Exactly!
          The challenge is that there are actually a continuum of people, not 2 types.
          On the one end, you have the PURE Looters/Moochers: => Those with LITTLE to no choice/ability!
          On the other end, you have the PURE Creators/Makers: => Those, like JBrenner, who create companies, within a system of being looted

          And then you have THOUSANDS of positions in between. You have the temporary looter (collecting unemployment benefits), the temporary business owner. The cheats (on both sides).

          And if structured correctly, it should look like a bell curve!

          I have made up my mind. I have NEVER collected unemployment benefits. But I know poverty well enough that I avoid POSSESSIONS to maintain emergency funding...

          The essence of the question to me becomes:
          What do you do, when GOVERNMENT and CORPORATE INTERESTS put their foot down on the right side of the bell curve, to kill off THEIR Competition (eg, the shutting down of conservative voices off the internet!), so they prosper and others can't???

          And the answer should be close to what JBrenner IMPLIED: I look for the best opportunity the current situation affords me within my values.

          BUT, there is a POINT at which even JBrenner would set his fields ablaze and move on (Galt style). That point would probably be (like TrueTheVote), when the ENTIRETY of our government is WEAPONIZED against him, and aimed squarely (and even illegally) at him, his wealth and his family. When they step in, at gun point, freeze ALL of your assets, and lobby false claims against you. (again, in the TTV case, the government had to ADMIT they ILLEGALLY targeted TTV, but then under Jeff Sessions, said THEY WOULD NOT pay TTV legal fees!). Meaning, you can win the moral victory, and be completely looted in the process!

          Again, I believe it is HUMAN Nature to optimize your choices/actions to get the most you can for the least risk/loss possible. For many, that is simply being a cog in the wheel, and drinking their beer every night after work.

          For me, it is settling for SOME 2% returns, when I know that 6-8% is possible, and having SOME make 20% and SOME make 6% so that all of my risk is not in one place or direction. But watching people get targeted by our government is scary. And recent IRS rulings say "We can use ANY information against you in an IRS court, EVEN IF it was obtained ILLEGALLY!" (This is a warning so that no GALT stands up). It should be ILLEGAL for our government to FREEZE your assets before they PROVE there was a crime committed!

          Finally, when the bell curve is so stepped on, as to force everyone into poverty and serfdom, even the CREATORS... You will have a revolt!
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          • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
            Appreciate the thoughtful answer. I came from the former USSR (when it was still USSR) and cannot miss the recognition that I am now back in the USSoA. In the old USSR, to fight the system as an individual on moral grounds was insanity. It appears likewise in today's USSoA. The little wiggle room that we still have is only temporary; soon, the entire concept of an entrepreneur will be punished, as it was back then. I am looking for solutions, but none seem obvious. Not any good ones, anyway.
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            • Posted by  $  CaptainKirk 2 months, 1 week ago
              The USSR Where "The govt pretends to pay us, so we pretend to work!" :-)

              I work with Russian Programmers, been there a couple of times, and trying to head back.

              It's fun (sarcastically) to watch the Russians laugh at us for being LESS FREE than they are!
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          • Posted by  $  jbrenner 2 months, 1 week ago
            I hoped (and expected) that CaptainKirk would respond when I brought up the Kobayashi Maru. It's nice to meet you.

            On the scale of characters within Atlas Shrugged, I am much like Quentin Daniels. I am a professor at a private institute of technology who is not above cleaning the floors so that I can practice my inventive craft.

            And yes, I do have a tipping point. I and several business partners came to the conclusion after reading Atlas Shrugged that it was time to sell our biofuels business when then candidate Obama made it clear that he would subsidize our solar energy competition (i.e. Solyndra). I was perfectly happy to make money off of environmentalist guilt, but I learned a valuable lesson in that you really want Gulch-worthy people as customers. People who do not belong in the Gulch will not recognize the value I create as being sufficiently greater than my subsidized competition, whether be it in my former biofuels to chemicals business, my new tissue engineering test bed business, or my professorial position at a private technological university.
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          • Posted by 2 months, 1 week ago
            As a side issue, just wanted to comment that I do not agree with your view of unemployment insurance. Everyone who works (legally) pays for that insurance, whether they want to or not. If a time comes when one needs to use that insurance, they paid for it and they use it. I pay for my fire insurance; if my house burns down, I will use it.
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