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Lectures to the Chinese by Alfred De Grazia

PART TWO:  The Eight Goods

3. Solving Problems

Not only the totalitarian state, but any government with a positive problem of reforms must take a stand concerning free expression. Mao Tse-tung has declared:

Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting the progress of the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land. Different forms and styles in art should develop freely and different schools in science should contend freely. We think that it is harmful to the growth of art and science if administrative measures are used to impose one particular style of art or school of thought and to ban another. Questions of right and wrong in the arts and sciences should be settled through free discussion in artistic and scientific circles and through practical work in these fields. They should not be settled in a summary fashion. A period of trial is often needed to determine whether something is right or wrong.

Such are the words of Mao. But then the Chairman considers a few lines later what may occur and offers criteria for controlling free expression.

What then, from the point of view of the broad masses of the people, should be the criteria today for distinguishing fragrant flowers from poisonous weeds? In the political life of our people, how should right be distinguished from wrong in one's words and actions? On the basis of the principles of our Constitution, the will of the overwhelming majority of our people and the common political positions which have been proclaimed on various occasions by our political parties and groups, we consider that, broadly speaking, the criteria should be as follows:

(1) Words and actions should help to unite, and not divide, the people of our various nationalities.

(2) They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to socialist transformation and socialist construction.

(3) They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, the people's democratic dictatorship.

(4) They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, democratic centralism.

(5) They should help to strengthen, and not to discard or weaken, the leadership of the Communist Party.

(6) They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to international socialist unity and the unity of the peaceloving people of the world.

Of these six criteria, the most important are the socialist path and the leadership of the Party... Naturally, in judging the validity of scientific theories or assessing the aesthetic value of works of art, additional pertinent criteria are needed. But these six political criteria are applicable to all activities in the arts and sciences.1

Mao is saying really that the communist dictatorship comes ahead of any other value, because without the dictatorship there would be chaos. Freedom, even in science and art, cannot be let to threaten what we would call the top power elite. And, of course, the power elite decides when to choose to feel threatened.

I agree with Mao's proposition that art and science (the extreme bastions of freedom) cannot be free if one holds a standard of a certain kind of society. They must be limited by some means even if, as in America, we give a few more research grants to "our kind" of art and science than to someone else's kind. The extreme would be to suppress ruthlessly competing or opposing art and science.

There are many ways of going after the ultimate goal of the flowering arts and blooming sciences, and of going after the organization of society for work and living. In America we can afford for the time being a generous and liberal way. We might be able to achieve the certainly difficult choices and changes by a consensus of the ten thousand.


The lecture on togetherness ended by demanding that politics have goals, and if not, then someone must have the power to arbitrate. Mo Tzu said:

Some standard of judgement must be established. To make a proposition without regard for standard is like determining the directions of sunrise and sunset on a revolving potter's wheel.

Since America has been rich, open, and free, political problems have rarely had to be solved. They are reduced in size and kicked around until they get lost. Or they are denied and covered up, in hopes they will disappear. Or they are resolved, to use a favorite word of professor of political science; "no problem is solved: at best it is resolved," they say, which means putting it off by any means possible so that it cannot bother the resolution of problems of everyday politics. Or, in a cyclonic frenzy, the problems are swept off into space.

Examples of all four methods of dealing with problems are abundant. For a full generation, one third of the American people have been ill-housed, to use Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous expression of the 1930s. Yet to quote just the titles and preambles of the housing legislation of the country that purport to solve the housing problem would take a book of this size. What have they amounted to? Certainly less than would have been accomplished in housing if nothing at all had been done by the state. I do not say the state has done nothing well. The problem has been conceived in utterly inadequate terms, never compelling real estate interests, the construction industry, labor unions, and the public to face the full scope of the problem. Most of the money spent by the governments has been badly allocated. Thanks to emergencies such as three long and expensive wars; to the cult of personalities and partisanship; and to the clouding effect of other issues in race relations, education, taxation, states' rights, etc., the housing problem can manage to surface only rarely for an airing. Meanwhile the motives, the advertisers, and the press engage unwittingly in image-making so that a person who talks of the need for housing is condemned for negativism and looked upon as a "kook." For instance, a so called "responsible" newspaper may print a one-column story on housing needs in fine print next to a colorful six-column ad on joyful vacations abroad or luxurious living room furniture; its responsibility ends, and that of its readers never begins.

The resolution of a housing problem is achieved by the initiation of legislative bills that live long lives on the tables of committees. Or the problem is resolved by an inadequate that program with a lofty title such as the model Cities Program that spreads the green dollars so thinly over the cement jungles that the green dissolves into the gray without trace.

In the frenzy of World War II, a great many emergency barracks were built for the wartime industrial population. Many of these still serve as housing for lucky Americans, "lucky" because their rents are low. The poorest fifth of the population pay about one third of their income for rent. In the same wartime frenzy, New York City acquired rent control. The City still retains it and people of the wealthiest and poorest classes benefit. The wealthy hide behind the poor. The poor know that they will be forced out into the streets if the controls are lifted. The landlords let their properties go to ruin. The politicians espouse the power of the rich and poor tenants, who outnumber the landlords. And the general dilapidation of the City continues. So problems are rarely solved in America. But perhaps there is no such thing as problemsolving. Logically and as a social process, problem-solving, whether in housing or foreign affairs, or any other area, consists of certain steps. These resemble the steps taken to solve a scientific problem, but are complicated by the unscientific nature of politics.

The problem, first, is clearly defined. An identified aggregate of people is acknowledged to need so much of something within a given period of time. All Known means of filling the need are surveyed. One after another, these are applied theoretically to the problem. If the consequences of a certain method are too harmful to others or are too doubtful to be relied upon, the method is discarded. The best-fitting method is adopted.

The method is worked out in detail. Considerations of costs, budget, human power, and satisfaction of the need enter into this planning stage. The specific goals are specifically set and phased over an adequate time scale based on "all reasonable speed." The execution of the project, or a program of projects, is watched to prevent muddling of the plan by the special interests who are always hovering around like jackals on the fringes of a flock of sheep. Evaluation concludes the process: were the goals achieved? If not wholly, what went wrong? What better methods can be applied in the future? This feedback is one of the virtues of a representative system of government, whose leaders and public are ever more prone than a purely administrative body to evaluation and criticism.


The scientific method of problem-solving applied to problems of human affairs has been known for a long time -- dimly since the dawn of humankind, sharply since the development of pragmatic philosophy and social engineering. If its successes are rare, it is because problem -- solving occurs in a total social context.

If America's scientific and intellectual resources are as extensive as I have said they are, and if ten thousand people culminate the leadership structure of the country, it should not be impossible to bring about a rational confrontation of the severe problems of the future and achieve a consensus on their solution by this group. Granted that the leaders have never come together before on such a grand scale. Granted, nevertheless, that the problems of the country have never been so acute. A way is possible.

One instance of an action that approaches this view is the large effort initiated, and directed, and coordinated by one man, Nelson Rockefeller, who has been approaching the central issues of the country with a large task force of intellectuals and men of civic experience. Two obstacles confront him. One is to persuade the others that his results would have been theirs. When consultation among the leaders occurs, their spirits and minds become involved, and they become dedicated. When not, then they are tempted to stand off and, as the vaudeville expression goes," watch for the pratfalls."

Perhaps a more serious obstacle is that the character of people who are hired as opposed to enlisted portends ill for a project. There is no assurance of their dedication; they have not given their all; they have lost nothing; having lost nothing, they undervalue what is to be gained. Furthermore, they do not think radically enough for the tasks ahead. When the whole nation has to turn its face away of its most luxurious and self-indulgent habits, small measures will not suffice.

Yet the Rockefeller group is not the only on that is operative or could become operative. In Congress, there can readily be mustered a group of leaders who, regardless of party, appreciate the grave condition of the country, understand world conditions, and at the same time appreciate the immense capabilities that await in the moral, scientific, and technological sectors of America. It would take no more than one tenth of such congressmen to ignite and fire up a large number of the ten thousand. Thence to consult with and enlist the active public, thence to bring around the nation. This effort would most reasonably become a movement, not a party, for a drive for a program is beyond the capacities of everyday politics.


I searched Chinese history for evidence of the practice of representation. It seemed most unlikely that a civilization so great and manifold would not have used the technique. In Western history, the concept of representation scarcely developed until the twelfth century. It began as a way of bring monks from far-flung abbeys to a central location to hear and discuss problems of the order, and to declare the wishes of their abbeys and receive the decisions voted by the assembly. A century later, representation sprang to life as a means of choosing persons from among the knights and townspeople who would assemble and bargain with the king over what was right and proper to expect of their constituents in the way of money and services.

Upon the success of the democratic idea, that is, by the nineteenth century, the principle of representative government manifested itself throughout the world, and was introduced into China from all sides. Even while resisting and rebelling against the imperialists, the Chinese adopted the idea of representative democracy. No longer was the leader cloaked in the Mandate of Heaven. No longer was the principle of authority hierarchical, whereby orders going out from the office of the Emperor descended the bureaucratic ladder to the elders of the village, where, too, authority was in the male head of the family and enforced upon its members.

It soon became apparent to Chinese revolutionaries, as it had to their European and American counterparts, that much more morale and driving force could come from a representative system within both the political parties and the government. From then on, save for the dictatorial episodes of the war lords, there could be no doubt that China had joined the modern world structure. Now it became a question of how to use representation to its best advantage in governing. And that, it happens, is the same question that faces America today.

Americans exhibit a great ignorance of representation, as well as impatience with devices of achieving representation, even though they are ahead of the world on techniques of representation. In America, as everywhere, people live in myths and fantasies of power, absolute command, hierarchy. Representative government is a set of inventions come late upon the human scene, and the mind does not take naturally to the subject. The authority of parents, churches, armies, and empires censors the idea historically and in the mind and conduct of the growing person.

Accordingly when President Nixon continually assured the country that he consulted with "leaders of Congress," with "the interests concerned," with "the people," and with "the two parties" on this or that question, to stem criticism of his arbitrary decision-making, he himself and a great many others did not realize that representative government calls for more than a "sounding board" or "committee to receive announcements" or even a number of appointed (and dependent) officials. All Chinese classical writers urged the authorities to consult with their advisers before acting, but they were unaware of representative government.

Representation implies a give-and-take, shared-power relationship between a leader and a constituency. Although representation can occur without a structure and a routine-that is, without representative devices to ensure it-such representation is nothing on which to base a free society. It is unreliable, often invalid, and can at any moment be transformed into a one-way power relationship where the leader commands and the constituents obey. "Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day"; even a despot must represent the opinions and conduct of his subjects some of the time. The question is: does he do so at the most critical times and does he do so when the people are against him?

By neglecting this basic idea of free and responsible government, Americans have suffered setbacks in many areas of society. This has to do only with the old kit of devices for achieving representation: the right to vote, to petition, to assemble, and to dispute issues; it has to do with the absence of progressive invention and diffusion of devices, which should already have proceeded to a level far advanced beyond present practices. Indeed, the reputation of representative government itself underwent for many years an eclipse behind the growth in executive power and bureaucratic power in all types of government.


The greatest opponent of the representative principle is the bureaucratic principle. The first gathers together authority and finds a middle ground, usually an assembly, where the needs and interests of all are weighed and a decision promulgated. The second views all from above and determines what is good for the whole. This hierarchic principle is age-old: it flourished in China for these thousand years, in Egypt, Assyria, and most of the West for three thousand years (except for some important republics of Greece, Italy, and western Europe); it reigned in Napoleonic France and Czarist Russia; it reared up again in the fascist and military dictatorships of the twentieth century.

All of this is well known to you. What is not so well known is the manner in which the Americans, born and bred to the representative principle, invented, on the loftiest of theories, the administrative principle. That is, they reinvented it. For it is essentially the ancient imperial idea of top-to-bottom dictation. It was rarely abandoned in military affairs, of course, and was scarcely injured in the state as a whole. But the Americans, followed by the Marxists and other socialists, had postulated the ideas of turnover in offices and a multitude of elections that would rule even the executives.

The counterattack was launched in industry, where the representative government of the state was warned "laissez aller" ("let it go"), and the dictatorship of the capitalists was assured. It was "proven" to the satisfaction of the bosses that "efficiency" could only be attained by the closest scientific study of the deductive logic of distributing and handing down work among various desks that would distribute it further and then collect it, assemble it, and deliver it as a job well done to the top. Breaks or jumps in the ladder were regarded as proof positive of a failure in the system.

Among the foremost theorists of this new executive system, you may be interested to know, were President Woodrow Wilson, who had a nervous breakdown finally when he was blocked by the American representative system, and even more close at home, Professor Frank Goodnow, who journeyed to China to help in the preparation of the first Chinese Republic.

Goodnow wrote an authoritative book propounding the thesis that between politics and administration a chasm existed. Politics was deciding a policy; administration was executing it. This theory proved so congenial to authoritative tempers that it was widely proclaimed in governmental and private bureaucracies. And so, as a result of this mood, government was partly removed from the charge of the public and its representatives, and, what is worse, experiments in representative bureaucracy practically ceased. Through this hole in the Great Wall flowed unceasingly contingents of democratic, socialist, and military bureaucracy, as less and less was "political" and more and more was supposed to be "administrative." Even Professor Harold Laski, onetime deputy leader of the Labour Party of England, although alarmed at the concentration of old feudal and capitalist elements in the British Civil Service, could only propose as a solution a revised selection process, the Confucian system, whereby even a poor man's son could present himself for examination to enter the Bureaucracy.

In reality, once administration or execution is given over to bureaucrats, regardless of their goodness and technical competence, examination, the society begins to slow down, to bind up the people, to prepare for dependency, deviousness, and totalitarianism. I admire the boldness of the attacks of Mao and his followers upon the bureaucracy. But I must say the same of China as I would of the United States. Unless new representative devices are fashioned to follow up the attack, the assault will fail.


The scope of representative government must be universal. It must be observed in all governmental and para-governmental institutions, yes, even into the family. The patriarchal family (or matriarchal one) menaces democratic society; habits of binding with the cement of authority all thoughts on all subjects will be habits carried subsequently into all social institutions.

Representative government is both internal and external. The practices within a group require similar expression in a group's relations with all other groups. The downfall of representative democracy within many trade unions, for example, occurred because the unions had to struggle with companies and states that had no conception of, or wish to govern themselves by, the principles of representation; and hence no knowledge of or desire for representative relations with the unions.

Representation is a principle that is capable of infinite design and manipulation. It collects certain important traits of a group or constituency and projects these traits forcibly into the shaping of the group's decisions. As a result the members of the group form a single communicating body; there are no lost limbs.

A representatively organized group will tend to produce reciprocal representative organization in other groups. I offer as an example a difficult and extraordinary case in America, hotly debated, because it touches upon the poorest and least educated elements of society. In a renewed effort to eliminate poverty, a few years ago Congress employed the typical measures of disbursals and services to the poor, and then it moved into the very jaws of the bureaucracy and local government by prescribing a form of representative government of the poor.

Officials of this Economic Opportunity Program were charged with encouraging poor neighborhoods to convene voluntarily and to elect representatives who would be paid, and then this structure was to turn around and act as spokesmen before the very officials who set it up, before the city councils, before anybody and everybody in fact.

No worse situation for an experiment in representative government could be imagined. Yet these groups expressed themselves vociferously; they inaugurated projects; they forced changes upon haughty school officials. A definite influx of new political activists was observed, from a stratum of society that provided heretofore activists only rarely. New civic talents were discovered. All of this did not happen without scandal, theft, an selfishness, but the same could be said of the organs of government which were shaken up by the community councils of the poor.

I would put the problem of representation in this way: A person should have as many voices as he has important roles to play in society. Society can be viewed as a congeries of constituencies into which all or part of the people belong-the world, the culture, the nation, the churches, the community, the party, the school, the factory, the farm, the family.

The voice is a vote for the candidates for authority and for freedom to express preferences openly. The voice begins here and expands into all other activities.

Another controversial example may be used, the corporation. As reported above, all large-scale systems of times past have been paternalistic, autocratic, hierarchical, and top-heavy. It matters not whether you speak of socialism, capitalism, or the military. Elsewhere I wrote,

Two centuries of experience with the office and factory system, and with the modern corporation, lead inescapably to the conclusion that shareholders, cannot properly ran large businesses, management cannot run them alone, labor unions are incompetent to do so, and governments are dreary failures. 2 Kalos: What Is to Be Done with Our World? (New York: New York University Press, 1973), p. 347.

Each fails for its own reasons; none represents faithfully the complex of motives and drives that defines the efficiency of the enterprise.

The constituency of the company consists of the public who depend upon it; of its suppliers and purchasers; of its shareholders who invested in it; of its workers; and of its managers, who should be representative of these interests either as a board of directors or operating through the representative board of directors.

A balance of representation might, for instance, give the shareholders and workers equal votes and the balance of constituents the last third of the votes. The system of representation should be personal, not formally of groups such as unions. Also, to achieve a stable course, voting for the leaders of the enterprise should be by proportional representation, not by winner-takes-all plurality voting.

The public vote in the corporation should be fashioned as a grand jury is in America. A delegated public official should sample the customers, suppliers, and purchasers of the firm, an convene or communicate with this sample, informing them of as much as they would wish to know so as to exercise their rights of election and agitation. They could be compensated like a grand jury for this voting.

The technique might be extended to the governmental bureaucracies. A dozen departments and hundreds of subdivisions of departments exist. The President is supposed to supervise them. He cannot. He appoints some supervisors. They cannot either. Congress, with 435 members in the House of Representatives and 100 in the Senate, exercises much supervision, but it has to look outward and upward like the President to many policy problems. So it cannot be fully effective.

We return again to the representative principle. Each department has its congressional oversight committee. This may be adequate at the top. Below the highest levels, the official waters become murky. Congress can establish a Public Assembly System. This would generate representative councils similar to the constituency and oversight machinery described for a large company. Here, officers of the system, appointed by committees of the Congress, would reach out via the sampling of the public and the closely related interest of the bureau or office concerned and set up a grand jury or Public Assembly. Thus, the communications agencies would possess one or more Public Assemblies for Communication. This assembly and its budget, and its leadership require approval of the overseeing congressional committee and the presidency, in a manner closely resembling the present system.

Thus the total governmental and non-governmental bureaucracy of the country would become subject to the representative principle. Open government, participatory democracy, and direct responsiveness to needs, on an everyday basis, would be better assured than at present.

Moving from the federal or national level to the local level (assuming that the state governments would replicate the national system), additional measures might be taken. It is customary in city and country affairs to have a territorial council, which through its head designates and supervises a great many officials. These officials head offices of considerable size and important functions. The representative principle involved in the popularly elected mayor is inadequate to assure effectiveness of governmental operations. Here, too, then, is another expansive area for the representative principle. If to each program or office there is attached a microcosmic scientific sample, say, of thirty to five thousand citizens whose charge it is to be the responsible constituency of the one office, and these are given the power to elect and supervise heads of programs, then again the loss of democratic control suffered as government functions have multiplied will be restored. This might be called the Micro-Constituency Governing Panel.

Here and elsewhere, the aim is to permit no closed bureaucracy to exist in any paragovernmental or governmental institution, but to provide everywhere a representative group to understand, pursue, oversee, criticize, and direct its activities. In all cases, coordination among functions on the same level and among more general and less general function is to be provided by liaison on the same level between representative councils; arbitration by the next higher council common to both lower councils is prescribed when cooperation fails.


As invigorating as these systems would be to the operations of American society, they could not master the taxesis, polyfrenia, and anomia that have become all-pervading. Other structural devices are necessary: countervaliance systems and devolution systems.

The countervailance system resembles the devil's advocate, who, on the occasion when a person has been nominated for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church, is an official designated to put the case against sainthood as staunchly as possible. Another example is illuminating. Every defendant coming into the American legal system is guaranteed an attorney to argue his case. The rule of law, that is, refuses the government prosecutor a monopoly over the presentation of evidence. Elevating this personal right into a collective principle would mean that every collectivist office would have to confront a disputer of its asserted powers.

The countervailors would be a corps of professional critics of all aspects of bureaucracy who would be assigned by the representative council of an institution to specialize as critic of all the sub-institutions. Thus, the committees on foreign relations of the United States Senate and House of Representatives would name a countervailor to the offices of the Bureau of International Commerce. The countervailor would have access to all materials and personnel of the office, an he would present an annual report to the two committees in which he would assert to the best of his ability all evidence of bad things that came to his attention during the year. He would recommend cuts in expenditures, cuts in personnel, and changes in organizations. Then it would be up to the defenders of this office to prove him wrong in the eyes of the authoritative committees and, through them, of the Congress and the presidency. It is essential to his efficacy that the countervailor not take an impartial view. He should represent an extremely critical position. For there are already many means for the favorable view of the agency to present itself.

Yet a third general proposal for blocking the advance of the executive force is a Devolution of Activities System. If you have not gathered my theory before, I may state it to you here quite sharply: capitalism and socialism are nonsensical ideas; autonomous and representative systems are the goals of advanced thinkers of every society.

The peak of devolution devices can be called the Equal-Sum Activity Formula. For every new activity that a large scale group assumes, it must divest itself of an equivalent activity. The divestiture can be accomplished by ceasing to perform the activity, by delegating it to an autonomous or independent group, or by subcontracting it to another group to perform.

Contemporary governments and large-scale corporations sense no limit to what they undertake, yet they cannot-in the case of government especially-readily quit a function. The direct and indirect costs of this apparently iron law of state growth have been referred to often, including its ultimate end in a totalitarian culture of force. Millions of voters, thousands of politicians, hundreds of newspapers, and dozens of authors have hurled their spears at this advancing force, to no avail. Already the United States, most plutocratic and diversified of the world's nations, possesses a Grotesque National Product half of which is attributable to the activities of government, and most of the other half to a thousand giant corporations. It is a pseudo-socialist society, most assuredly, blossoming in a desert of hostile opinions.

Is the Equal-Sum Activity Formula more than a propaganda directive? Can it be applied? Will it discriminate good from bad? One must grant from the first that the present level of governmental activity is large and unmanageable by past techniques. Then one must believe, too that a variety of forms of human organization are acceptable to the democratic ideology and are effective for getting work done, satisfying employees, and coordinating with the over-all organization of society. Further, it must be agreed that existing activities can be rated by some standard and devolved appropriately or eliminated; the countervailor technique appears to be a useful tool for accomplishing this. Finally, our survey of the independent and commercial sectors leads us to believe that there are ample superior methods for conducting most operations outside the canopy of the sovereign state, reducing that canopy, which has so many undesirable side effects, to a minimum size.


Both in China and in America, it has traditionally been assumed that the political party can be the instrument for supervising the democratic operation of the large-scale institutions of society. The fact is that the party has not been doing so, at least not in America. Party feeling is declining. Almost half of the Americans declare themselves independent of party attachments. Party morale is generally low, and understandably so; there is no reason why a party position on a sewing machine company or a local school board should be a link in the chain of party positions extending as far as the future world policies of the government. The positions at either extreme should be consistent, but the consistency should not be the forced effect of the controls exercised by the party leaders.

The party focuses upon the top offices of government; in electing the top, the voters are forced to delegate powers over all issues on the basis of irrelevant, though important, national and world issues. In consequence, the local echelons of the parties lose interest in the officers who govern local matters and the local officers lose interest in the people who elect them. American local and functional politics have come to lack a public, with even the names of "popularly elected" officeholders unknown to 80 per cent or so of the electorate. Representative devices have then to be invented and employed outside of, even if while connected to, the party system. In thousands of American communities, elected officers carry no party designations, and sometimes two or more party designations.

Again America needs inventions that will guarantee to surround the conduct of office by an attentive and powerful public. I have already alluded to the micro-constituency in local affairs. Other schemes may be suggested. One, for example, was proposed over a century ago and never seriously considered. This idea would have each elector of an office given a ballot which, during a prescribed period of election, he or she would give to a candidate or candidate's agent when personally satisfied of the candidate's qualifications. The candidate achieving a majority of ballots submits them to the registrar of elections and is declared elected. The outstanding virtue of such a plan is its probable effect of linking the candidate and his electors by a closer identification and communication than is now possible in all but a very few elections.

It is an alarming signal of the decline of representative democracy in America that people usually feel more closely represented by a President who always receives something less than half the votes of the potential and eligible electorate than they do by a local city councilman or state representative chosen by a few thousand votes of his neighbors. It is also clear that Congress, even when the President reaches a low level of public confidence, does not reciprocate by reaching a high level of confidence. Congress, therefore, should logically develop new institutions and devices to justify the commanding position it holds under the Constitution.


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