The Beer Whisperer: The Fundamental Difference Between Left and Right …

… and Why It’s Largely Irrelevant

Apologies if this comes across as explaining the obvious, however for every person that already understands this, there are perhaps many who don’t. I feel as though I’m sounding like I’m explaining this to children, but the standard of political comment on social media suggests that it is necessary. Anyone familiar with social media can vouch for the terrible standards of literacy and comprehension in the general population; a poor reflection on our current standard of education. The purpose of this article is to address this at a fundamental level, develop more robust definitions of terms frequently used in political discussion, and to deny those who use misdirection, misdefinition and deception as tools to win rather than inform.

It’s been a matter of debate since before the French Revolution as to what really constitutes left and right in a political sense. They have been characterised in a multitude of ways, and are subject to narrow and broad definitions based mostly on political expedience. However, the most common characterisation is that left is socialism and right is capitalism, yet both of these are ill-defined.

In recent times, the traditional left-right spectrum has come under significant challenge on a number of fronts, one being the Political Compass. This postulation essentially adds another dimension in authoritarianism versus libertarianism, which draws significant distinction between people who otherwise share the same space on the economic dimension. I would argue that the real elephant in the room represents a third dimension, however its character is one that i will leave until the right moment. While the Political Compass adds to the debate, and arguably improves political theory, its methodology has some shortcomings, however none that are not rectifiable.

Socialism is expediently characterised by its adherents as encompassing all public properties, including, conveniently, such public properties that existed millennia before socialism, such as town squares and roads. It is of course important here to draw the significant distinction between socialism as an ideology and public ownership as a characteristic of certain properties. So socialism as defined by socialists is arguably an inadequate definition of the left end of the left-right spectrum.

Conversely, capitalism is also subject to mischaracterisation, yet people can be forgiven, considering the hodgepodge of meanings listed in Wikipedia under capitalism’s etymology. Worthy of note is that the term “capitalism” was coined by a socialist with a highly dubious and challengeable definition – one that has been perpetuated to this day, however that is not central to this article, so discussion of it is for another day.

Capitalism in its narrowest sense is simply the use and leverage of capital to fund ventures for potential profit, enabled through various innovations such as brokerage and stock markets. However, while this helps to explain the maximisation of economies of scale and other positive externalities, it does not explain the negative externalities enabled through monopolisation of markets. For this reason, the concept of the free market is a better definition of the right end of the left-right spectrum.

Considering the shortcomings of socialism versus capitalism as definitions of the left-right spectrum, a look at the differences at a fundamental level may provide a better definition. One such definition is collectivism versus individualism, the former implying collective ownership and the latter private ownership. But is this adequate? To be adequate, they would need, as extremes, to be mutually exclusive. To be an individualist would exclude you from belonging to any collectives, and vice versa. But this isn’t ostensibly true. Practically everyone belongs to collectives by choice, even alpha individualists. We belong to families, clubs, places of employment, neighbourhoods, and all ultimately by choice, even families. This implies that the opposite of individualism isn’t collectivism, but involuntary collectivism. This gets us closer to the fundamental difference between the ends of the economic spectrum, however the involuntary aspect is potentially a different dimension entirely.

Another definition is characterised by its simplicity, being private ownership versus public ownership. Most people agree with a mix of public and private ownership, such as owning your own house and car, while having access to public goods such as roads and footpaths. Yet more relevant to this discussion is having public and private hospitals and schools, as a choice considered by many to be a fundamental right. This definition works as it adequately describes the centre, being where people accept the existence, and benefits, of both private and public properties.

However, there is a more fundamental definition of private property excluded by the narrow economic definition we are all familiar with.

You.

Your self is the ultimate private property. The right to do as you wish with your self, as fundamentally opposed to doing as you wish with or to others, is arguably the most fundamental right of all. And this, as a concept, confronts the absolute left position of all property being public. It implies that under a far left position, you do not own your self, and by extension, your body or your thoughts. This, incidentally, is quite consistent with communism’s general understanding as being a far left position. If your government murders you, it effectively already owned you.

And that brings us to the concept of ownership. What precisely is ownership? We commonly define ownership as having title to something, such as real estate or private transport, yet this is a formal and legal, but narrow definition. Owning your own car implies that you can drive it anywhere that is not explicitly owned by someone else to the exclusion of others. However, if conditions apply to this, do you really own it in an absolute sense? If you do not have control over it, then, at the very least, you do not have full ownership beyond its strict legal sense. If the government can restrict your use of your car to having a breathalyser on its driver’s door, with a condition of passing a test before you can turn the engine on, then your ownership is not absolute. We have consistent calls for spare bedrooms in private properties to be made available to the public, and farming is highly regulated in Australia such that farmers cannot do much of anything without formal approval. In reality, their actual ownership is significantly reduced.

This begs the question – if you only partially own your home, your car or anything else, who owns the rest? Everyone else? If everyone else, then everyone else has equal control over parts not owned by you. Yet anyone who has worked in a hierarchical organisation knows that this simply isn’t the case. The administrator of your local public hospital has undoubtedly more control over the hospital than you do. And if ownership means control, then control means ownership. So, for true, 100% public ownership, no hierarchies can exist in the public sphere, something which most people understand is unworkable. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a committee of everyone would produce what exactly?

This understanding explains both the popularity of socialism, and its historically poor outcomes in terms of human rights, let alone its economic ones. It also questions the principles of those who benefit assymetrically. If control is a prize, it is thoroughly inconsistent with the concept of collective ownership, and this brings us to the elephant in the room.

Anyone acutely aware of modern politics is aware of the immense power and influence of social media, being collectively one of the information age’s most prominent and powerful gatekeepers of information. Such people should also be aware of the disturbingly apparent interchangeability of social media barons to switch from rapacious capitalists to authoritarian socialists at will. This challenges the very definition of socialism and capitalism by muddying their differences with profound impacts on politics and society. It also makes more sense viewed as control rather than ownership in the strict legal sense. Moreover, it highlights the limitations of capitalism as a definition for one end of the economic political spectrum.

Social media giants, in hindsight, exploited capitalism, not for capitalism’s sake, but for power and profit. It’s exceedingly unlikely that they all changed ideologically due to some sort of sudden magical insight at the same point in their trajectory to power and influence. Occam’s razor suggests are far simpler reason – personal benefit. And from a pragmatic point of view, it makes perfect sense. Once there is more to lose than there is to gain, it makes little sense to embrace free markets when that is where all your threats are. Rather, buddying up to governments and regulators can provide protection against bothersome competitors, as we have seen countless times before social media was even a concept. And this is where capitalism diverges from free markets and Adam Smith’s concepts of positive externalities arising from innovation and trade, among other things.

What we see here and elsewhere is something not reflected at all in either the traditional political spectrum or alternatives such as the political compass. What we see here is pragmatism as opposed to principle. As demonstrated, both socialism and capitalism are readily exploitable as methods to achieve other agenda. This highlights the pragmatism of entrepreneurs and bureaucrats, but the real elephant in the room is the political class. In addressing the pragmatic dimension of politics, I’ve sought to highlight the pragmatic aspect of politicians’ agenda, who seek the highest positions of power in the land, and globally. This reduces political parties to mere vehicles to transport politicians into positions of immense power and influence. Recep Erdoğan was infamously quoted as saying that democracy is like a tram, where you get to your destination and then you get off. If democracy itself is mere political expediency, what does that say about political parties?

This is not only something that we’ve seen occur through time, but something that appears to be increasing rapidly in occurrence. The Manchurian Candidate was originally a work of fiction barely sixty years ago, yet now it seems that more politicians meet that definition than those that do not. Some politicians have infamously turned on their own parties, but how do we know how many are secretly at odds with their parties ideologically, pragmatically, or both?

A failure to take into account pragmatism in politics is a fatal flaw in defining political theory; a flaw wholly missing in the existing postulations of political placement due to its implicit assumption of principle as a defining characteristic of the entire spectra.

Without understanding and due consideration of pragmatism in political theory, the fundamental differences between left and right become irrelevant in any practical sense.

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29 Responses to The Beer Whisperer: The Fundamental Difference Between Left and Right …

  1. Spurgeon Monkfish III says:

    Pragmatism is simply a bland sounding term for expediency.

  2. Adam says:

    This article, though well written, focuses primarily on the economic aspect of left versus right, with a few side steps into personal freedom but as it relates to economics.

    Economics is downstream of politics. But politics is downstream of culture. And culture is downstream of a nation. And a nation is downstream of race.

    We are way beyond economics and politics. Which is why, yes – there is no difference between left and right. What comes next is the people, the real people, versus those who have sought to replace us. It is the optimate vs populare scenario playing out once again.

  3. John A says:

    Great stuff, Guest. Deserves a better response than I can manage, as I am about to head off to work 🙁

  4. Forester says:

    I read an article that suggested primitive men and women sharing food with the tribe was a form of ‘savings’, the successful hunter could trust the rest of the tribe to share the hunt at the next meal if they were unsuccessful. Complex social infrastructure developed to reinforce the trust and optimise the distribution of the hunt.

    Then trading between tribes developed, exchanging items of scarce value. But how do you ‘save’ with other tribes (or even your own people) you don’t trust? Then money was devised that did not require trust.

    Complex social infrastructure developed that proscribed stealing savings in money; ‘Thou shall not steal or covet thy neighbor’s donkey or wife’. Production of food and goods skyrocketed and we now live a much higher standard of living than any tribe chucking sticks at wallabies. We have lounges, running hot water, our wife survives her third child, our kids survive their 5th birthday, we live past 30, beer and bacon.

    Then some useless good for nothing disciple of Malthus reckoned if human development could be ‘evolved’, by force if necessary, we could just ‘trust’ everyone.

    Then another bunch of useless arseholes decided they could accelerate this ‘evolution’ by just killing off those with so little trust they wouldn’t share their wealth with them, eventually leading to the murder of 100 million people last century.

    There are still plenty of this arsehole’s disciples around and some of them were voted into both the lower and upper houses of our parliament. The social ‘evolution’ of humans continues apace.

    There is no ‘left’ or ‘right’.

  5. Epicurious says:

    Adam says:
    February 25, 2021 at 4:59 pm
    This article, though well written, focuses primarily on the economic aspect of left versus right, with a few side steps into personal freedom but as it relates to economics. Economics is downstream of politics. But politics is downstream of culture. And culture is downstream of a nation. And a nation is downstream of race.
    Something of which SlowMo has no idea.

    Well wrut Adam.

  6. C.L. says:

    Recep Erdoğan was infamously quoted as saying that democracy is like a tram, where you get to your destination and then you get off.

    Wow. I hadn’t read that before. The Turk really nailed how most Western ‘leaders’ see democracy as well. This is most pronounced in the latest iteration of the United States. Post-Trump, it has become obvious that all the major centres of power in that country now see democratic process as a tiresome means to a manipulative end.

    Great post, Beery. Thank you for composing and posting.

    The site is a little too busy these days; this post shouldn’t be pushed down and around and away quite so precipitously.

  7. Roger says:

    Economics is downstream of politics. But politics is downstream of culture. And culture is downstream of a nation. And a nation is downstream of race.

    Culture is downstream of religion, in our case the Judeao-Christian tradition.

    Your self is the ultimate private property. The right to do as you wish with your self, as fundamentally opposed to doing as you wish with or to others, is arguably the most fundamental right of all.

    Ethical solipsism.

  8. Ozman says:

    Easy read with valid points, Beer Whisperer; but I fear that what currently exists may soon belong to the days of the Flintstones.

    Tragically, the clowns that are ruling this country fail to realize that it is better to be an individual within a society that enjoys “voluntary collectivism” than a hackable human programmed into forced collectivism–fast heading our way via vaccines designed to make us immune to commonsense and critical thinking.

    Embedded with chips, the fundamental difference between the virtual and the real will be our noses detecting the possibility of a fish between a pair of legs. Presumably, this will depend upon whether we are selected to be eunuchs, as part of the exploited class or the irrelevant class.

    The eugenicist and promoter of vaccinations, Gates–whose global tentacles reach into everything health–implies 0.5 billion won’t need vaccination. A one child policy might exist for those licensed to breed. At least they will have permission to engage in the natural enjoyments of life on Earth, grilled fish without chips on the shoulder.

  9. Joanna Smythe says:

    There are a lot of arseholes who a. usually like to make money at the expense of others and keep it all to themselves and they don’t care how many people they hurt along the way. There are also another lot of people who b. are entrepreneurs, make money, create jobs and produce and invent and generally and genuinely want to make life better for their fellow man. It is not irrelevant because at the moment the arseholes are getting all the air time and it is the arseholes who are generally of the left and the majority of people in the world, although they don’t always admit it, would prefer option b.

  10. Adam says:

    in our case the Judeao-Christian tradition.

    Stop parroting globalist propaganda. There is no Judeao-Christian anything.

  11. Tel says:

    I read an article that suggested primitive men and women sharing food with the tribe was a form of ‘savings’, the successful hunter could trust the rest of the tribe to share the hunt at the next meal if they were unsuccessful. Complex social infrastructure developed to reinforce the trust and optimise the distribution of the hunt.

    Vampire bats do this, and maintain a system of accounts … plus mechanisms to exclude those too far in debt to the others … all based on what is essentially a credit economy. Most interesting of all, it shows you can productively trade when there is only one commodity … if that commodity is fungible but has rapid decay, then converting physical commodity to fiduciary credit is a profitable trade. In many ways it’s mathematically equivalent to Krugman’s famous babysitting co-op although the bats make it work for them without any Keynesians around … perhaps that would shock some people.

    One would guess that their “social infrastructure” could not be so very complex … part of it is preference for family and part of it is based on good past behaviour.

  12. Muddy says:

    I hope this is not too off-topic, but I’ve often thought that the ‘left’ views the political spectrum as akin to the Nike logo: The core or cadre consider themselves as the solid, grounded base (an anchor to ‘reality’), with their disciples clustered around them. All others (non-believers) exist somewhere to the right as the ‘tick’ climbs and narrows, becoming less morally broad-minded and grounded the farther the distance from the anchor.

  13. Roger says:

    Stop parroting globalist propaganda. There is no Judeao-Christian anything.

    2000 years of Western history suggests otherwise.

  14. Roger says:

    Do you take offence at the descriptors Judeo and Christian being linked?

  15. duncanm says:

    Good points – though I got a little lost.

    I think collectivism must be enforced – hence there’s always loss of freedom. It must become totalitarian to survive.

    Political power should be granted by the will of the governed. Any functioning collective (work group, society, etc) knows it must appoint leaders and have hierarchical power structures for efficiency.

    Sortition solves the entrenched power problem.

  16. Tel says:

    Political power should be granted by the will of the governed. Any functioning collective (work group, society, etc) knows it must appoint leaders and have hierarchical power structures for efficiency.

    That means the society (i.e. the group) exists for the benefit of the individuals.

    Each individual sees the group as beneficial in as much as better to stay in than escape and run away. Like joining a club and playing regular dues … if you didn’t like the club you would simply resign your membership and stop paying.

  17. Arky says:

    Left and Right are obsolete terms.
    They are not really useful for us in describing what we face.
    They are useful for the current establishment to use to label it’s opponents as “far right”.
    We should stick to opposing authoritarianism, fascism and collectivism.
    The left used to celebrate individualism, but only in order to break down society. We should embrace it as the basis for an new type of free society: One of individual responsibilities and reduced establishment control.
    No longer is government regulation alone the problem, because governments work in concert with the mega rich establishment in the guise of enterprises, universities and media.

  18. paulgf says:

    The importance of left vs right is not largely irrelevant at all. The problem society has now is after roughly 250 years of capitalism really emerging as a positive force for change in western society from the commencement of industrialization in Britain, in the main with varying degrees of social welfare tacked on over that time, it has given us a very, very high standard of living, particularly if you look back to see where we have come from in the 18th Century.

    The problem is most people today especially the young woke types think this standard of living just fallen from the sky by good luck or increasingly we have taken it under false pretenses through some form of “white supremacy” and given this “unfair” bounty we now enjoy we should “socialise” more of these gains away to ever more smaller fringe lobby groups we can conceive off and continue moving society evermore to the left. Like its a free lunch that can keep on giving and giving to ever more smaller micro group that feels aggrieved and somehow left behind. The problem is that there is a “tipping point” and I don’t like to use that phrase as it has been so misused by the climate change loons.

    The part that is missing here is that the success of capitalism over other leftist models has emerged over a long time span and those benefits compound over time, so give it a 100 years or so, small cumulative differences between a society that pursues policies tipping more right vs left in terms of economic and personal freedoms , magnify a heck of a lot. This is why after just 70 years of communism , the Soviet economy in most parts had almost reverted back to 3rd world status by the time it collapsed in the late 1980’s. Small differences add up over time, but the wokerati don’t understand that concept. Just take more from those rich capitalists , she will be right.

    One of the main items you missed in the essay that goes to the heart of the issue is “Risk” and moreover the tolerance of Risk we encourage individuals in society to take. The right believes first and foremost in the primacy of the individual over the state or the collective and that the individual should be free to take Risk and moreover to encourage more risk taking , those pursuing risk endeavours should be able to enjoy the fruits or success of taking those risks.

    Covid has shown us this extends to more that just pure economic matters, though this is still the main area, but risk permeates our life in so many ways, and people on the right usually accept Risk more as part of life and recognize its not a purely negative force but it can bring great advantages to societies by bringing rewards if harnessed correctly.

    This is the whole essence of capitalism. You take risk and put up your capital which drives innovation and change and improvement. It brings new technology into the world and encourages trial and error and refinement. It has driven much of the application of academic science into real world improvements. Taking risk is at the very heart of “creative destruction” that Schumpeter referred to.

    Those of the left tend to spurn risk as something to be feared and something to be “protected” from at all costs by government. They do not appreciate often such protection in the long run costs far more to society than the risk we are protecting from ever would. Covid and unnecessary lockdowns is a great example of this. Climate change and a fanatical pursuit of the “precautionary principle” to the point where we are attempting to regulate the entire world economy to control the emission of a natural gas to ostensibly control global temperatures when it at best has a largely a nominal effect and at worst , it doesn’t drive temperatures at all, is probably the ultimate example of “fear of risk” induced insanity.

    So our tolerance for risk and recognition of the vital role it takes in pushing our society forward by the tendency of those who lean right to accept it into our lives is I would argue one of the key differences between people who lean right or left. I would contend our philosophy toward risk and how that is embedded in our society is therefore far from irrelevant. If we continue to indoctrinate our children that all risk taking, if it leads to someone enjoying large financial success (or other forms of success in life) is a bad thing and the government is there to protect us from all risks and adverse events in life……….we eventually will end up the poorer . It might take a few generations given the enormous wealth western societies have built up to circle back around to my opening remarks, but we will end up there for sure and not only will our rate of progress slow , the world will be a lot more boring place. So I think the discussion of left vs right and how that impacts our views on Risk is very much something we should never consider as “irrelevant” to society in the main as it is such an important driver in shaping our society.

  19. Adam says:

    2000 years of Western history suggests otherwise.

    If you think that judaism and Christianity were in anything but direct opposition, then I would say that your knowledge of Western history is about as comprehensive as Magda Szubanski’s knowledge of dieting.

  20. Dot says:

    Adam says:
    February 25, 2021 at 7:26 pm
    in our case the Judeao-Christian tradition.

    Stop parroting globalist propaganda. There is no Judeao-Christian anything.

    Except Jesus Christ perhaps. A somewhat important historical religious figure.

  21. Epicurious says:

    Magda Szubanski’s knowledge of dieting

    Always good to finish the day with a good laff!

  22. Dot says:

    I think Adam is right about history. Tens, maybe hundreds of examples of conflict spring to mind. Quite frankly it looks pretty bad for Christians.

  23. Dot says:

    I’ve always seen the difference as “do you think the government is better at solving problems”? It isn’t correct all of the time.

    I would generalise authoritarians of the 19th and 20th centuries by saying the left compels and the right prohibits. However I have seen righties (anti authoritarians) say it is the opposite.

    Another spanner in the works is that evangelical Christianity was associated with the left until the 1970s; similarly progressivism came from the same root in evangelical eschatology, at least in terms of being prohibitionist and so on. Eugenics came from misguided utopianism.

  24. Tel says:

    If you think that judaism and Christianity were in anything but direct opposition, then I would say that your knowledge of Western history is about as comprehensive as Magda Szubanski’s knowledge of dieting.

    I’m not much of a Christian, but I know this quote:

    Do not misunderstand and think that I am here to abolish Old Testament laws or Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Until heaven and earth disappear altogether, not the smallest letter nor least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Old Testament until everything has been accomplished.

    Anyone who sets aside one of the least of the Old Testament commands and teaches accordingly, will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches Old Testament laws will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    Spoken, then translated by better Christians than myself … which isn’t saying much.

    I’ve also seen many arguments about what he means, although it seems simple enough.

  25. C.L. says:

    If you think that judaism and Christianity were in anything but direct opposition…

    I don’t think you understand what Judeao-Christian means, Adam.
    It doesn’t mean a pact of buddies like ANZUS or NATO. It refers to a system of belief founded upon mothotheism, the decalogue and the long sacralisation of Greek and pagan philosophy whose corollary was a new evolutionary dialectic in human history; imperfect but striving for perfection; as reflected in everything from science to artistic principles, the rule of law, Magna Carta, free trade and the US Constitution.

  26. duncanm says:

    Tel says:
    February 25, 2021 at 9:16 pm
    Political power should be granted by the will of the governed. Any functioning collective (work group, society, etc) knows it must appoint leaders and have hierarchical power structures for efficiency.

    That means the society (i.e. the group) exists for the benefit of the individuals.

    Each individual sees the group as beneficial in as much as better to stay in than escape and run away. Like joining a club and playing regular dues … if you didn’t like the club you would simply resign your membership and stop paying.

    yes – sorry, that was assumed. The group is formed from a number of individuals; all voluntarily.

    Don’t like the group? Then you wander off by your lonesome, or form another one with like-minded individuals.

  27. bespoke says:

    I use Left (or ‘progressives’) vs Right only for rhetorical convenience among generally like minded group. Getting bogged down with the endless discussions on the nuances is a waist of time.

  28. John Brumble says:

    I feel the paradigm of Capitalism as the opposite of Socialism is a false one. And one that’s been carefully cultivated by collectivists. Like “trickle-down”, “capitalism” is a term that was developed by collectivists as a way to collectivise the natural tendencies of free individuals.

    Capitalism isn’t the opposite of Socialism; capitalism is the null value, the natural tendency of all people. What “capitalism” is at any one point is a function of the society.

    We have massive, unchecked government power and we call it “crony-capitalism”, but it’s not really. It’s just cronyism. And even if we had full-blown socialism, people would still individually behave as before, they’d just do it shaped by the society in which they live.

    To me, even using the term “capitalism” is ceding the field to the collectivists, though I’m sure I’ve been guilty myself in the past and will be in the future.

  29. Suburban Boy says:

    Whatever the merits of his other arguments, the author falls down in his discussion of property.

    Firstly, property is a legal concept, and in our system of law the concept is a “bundle of rights” a person (the owner) has in relation to an object (the thing colloquially referred to as the “property”). The bundle of rights, taken together, are what we mean by “ownership”. To describe the “formal and legal” concept of ownership (and by extension, property) as “narrow” misses the point: property and ownership arise only within the context of a legal system, so a legal framework is the way to understand the concepts.

    Secondly, ownership has never meant that the owner has a complete right to do absolutely anything he likes in relation to the property. In societies where people are allowed to own guns, they don’t have the right to use to gun to kill others according to the owner’s wishes. That doesn’t make the ownership of the gun less than 100 per cent, just as speed limits do not reduce the ownership of one’s car. An important partial exception to this is taxation (which allows government to share persons’ profits), although lawyers understand taxation is an obligation a person has to the government, not a property interest the government has in a corporation or an individual’s labour.

    In modern societies (in this context those that do not legally recognise chattel slavery) people cannot be property and therefore cannot be owned. People can voluntarily limit their freedoms by way of contract, and involuntarily have their freedoms curtailed by state power, but neither means can reduce an individual to property.

    The example given of a public hospital shows further misunderstanding. Such an institution – another good example is “our” ABC – is not owned by “everyone” but by the body politic (the state) either directly or through intermediate corporations. Control of the body politic is defined by the constitution of the state, and control of the hospital is vested in whoever the body politic decides to run it.

    Which then brings us to the proposition that “if ownership means control, then control means ownership”. It is unclear if the author believes this or sets it up as a proposition that is untenable, but either way the proposition is untrue. The usual relationship between the two is that they go together, but there are numerous situations – fiduciary relationships – where they are separated. One such relationship is that between a company’s directors and the company’s assets; another is the relationship between a trustee and the trust property.

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