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Magness on Hoppe; the Kochtopus and the Mises Caucus

Phil Magness, who has been solid on many libertarian matters (see e.g. his appearances on the Tom Woods show), started criticizing Hans-Hermann Hoppe a couple years ago and has recently ramped it up.

For example, back in 2019, Magness tried to link Hoppe’s views on immigration and race to his PhD adviser Habermas (see this 2019 Facebook post and his article Racial Determinism and Immigration in the Works of Ludwig von Mises). As I pointed out in the comments to the FB post, however, the critique was confused. More on this in the Appendix below.

Later, Magness started ramping up his accusations and insinuations, such as this tweet:

 

And in a recent Facebook post (Aug. 30, 2022), Magness goes even further. He quotes Hoppe from this interview, as stating:

Apart from their anticommunism, my parents, as most people of their generation, were highly guarded or even timid regarding political pronouncements. Germany had lost a devastating war, and the German population was subjected to a systematic, American-led reeducation campaign, a Charakterwaesche (character-wash), as I was to realize only many years later, of truly enormous proportions, which involved a complete rewriting of history from the victor’s viewpoint, essentially portraying Germans as congenital villains. This made it all the more difficult to finally discover the fundamental importance of private property rights and the evil of statism and so-called public property.

Of this comment, Magness states:

Welp…there you have it.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe recently asserted in an interview that he believes Germany was unfairly villainized during WWII, and was subsequently brainwashed into accepting its faults by American propaganda.

Some character named “Adam Martin” also commented:

I’m just going to say what I always say:
To write a Hoppe article, just take a Rothbard article and ask: how would Hitler say this?

To which Magness replied:

And I’m just going to say it: Hoppe is a Nazi sympathizer.

In the Appendix below I repost some of my objections to these accusations. But Magness is clearly mischaracterizing, in fact attempting to demonize, Hoppe. Why does he have such a beef with Hans? Who knows. Magness himself is very good on many issues and is usually fair-minded; and he himself is often on the receiving end of unfair assumptions and smears. So it’s curious he would resort to the tired old underhanded, devious tactics of the left–cherry-picking and quoting someone out of context, misinterpreting or distorting quotes, guilt-by-association, and so on. Maybe he has some odd obsession with Habermas and the fact that Hoppe was his PhD student and Habermas’s discourse ethics influenced Hoppe’s rights theory has tainted Hoppe in Magness’s mind and made it impossible for him to be objective. I don’t know.

But I did notice something interesting.

Consider. For decades there has been bad blood between the radical, principled, Rothbardian and Misesian-Austrian-libertarian Mises Institute, and the “respectable,” moderate DC/Beltway libertarians such as the Cato Institute, and various Koch funded people and groups. The latter are not only more moderate and thus closer to leftism in terms of policy than the hard-core anti-state and anti-war MI people, but they also adopt the tactics of the left in dishonest and outrageous smears, character assassination, guilt by association, of the MI people.1 You know, the tired old, ridiculous crap like, “Gee, I wonder why you favor secession. It must be because you want to bring back slavery.” Tired old accusations of racism, bigotry, homophobia, blah blah blah, smears from the Tom Palmer types that no one pays attention to anymore.

Anyway— this tension has been simmering for decades, ever since the Kochs kicked Rothbard out of Cato and stole his voting shares after he objected to their cozying up to DC, and he formed the Mises Institute (MI) with Lew Rockwell in 1982. Rothbard dubbed the assorted Koch-controlled groups always on the attack against him and the MI the “Kochtopus.” (Just google it. Tons of material out there.) But earlier this year, the Mises Caucus (MC), highly influenced by MI thinkers such as Mises, Ron Paul, Rothbard, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe, was successful in completely taking over the Libertarian Party (see Aggression and Property Rights Plank in the Libertarian Party Platform), which until that point had been run by the old guard, mainstream, moderate, “respectable” types. Many of the more principled and radical and younger and Ron Paul libertarians were outraged by the ridiculous Covid lockdowns, restrictions, and mandates, and were not happy that the LP over the last couple years was not more outspoken on this issue. This is probably one reason the explicitly anti-lockdown Mises Caucus took over the LP. As Jeff Tucker recently wrote:

The political parties of the world are profoundly affected. The Democrats not only cheered the lockdowns but intensified them, keeping schools closed for two years. They deny it now but it’s absurd. They have become the party of lockdowns. That is their vision of the kind of society they want. The Republicans don’t fare much better, given that the lockdown happened when they controlled the White House and Senate. The leadership in particular will be overthrown in time.

The Libertarian Party is a minor player but even here we see how this dynamic plays out. The party apparatus had almost nothing to say about lockdowns for the whole of the election season of 2020. During the worst mass violations of human liberty and rights in our lifetimes, the party that claims to be the bulwark of principle fell silent. Two years later, the entire old guard was thrown out completely and replaced.2

The DC libertarians—Cato, Reason, Koch-related types—were, unsurprisingly, also often weak or bad on lockdowns too, as Tucker has repeatedly lamented. For example, in the same piece he calls out both Reason and Students for Liberty (whom Hoppe derides as “Stupids for Liberty”):3

It’s true for institutions in the private sector, particularly think tanks and activist groups. Here too we have the receipts. We know for sure who spoke out and who deferred to the disgraced old guard.

Some of my favorite organizations from the past—ones I supported with speeches and donations—failed in the most horrible way. The disgrace is particularly deserved in the case of organizations that called themselves the “voice of liberty” [i.e., Stupids for Liberty —SK] who very easily became the voice of ruling-class lockdown ideology: let’s stay home and let the workers and peasants deliver groceries to us!

One publication that imagines itself to be some kind of champion of counterculture and defender of freedom [i.e., Reason, sometimes called “(T)Reason“—SK] used its own platform to blast me personally for opposing mask mandates. Masks, they wrote, are not tyranny but “a symbol of privacy and personal responsibility.” What’s more, they “are important for reducing the spread.” If we all comply, we can “avoid top-down impositions.” Great plan: if everyone would just go along with the plans of tyrants, no force will be necessary!

Others in this orbit have been depressingly bad on lockdowns and mandates, e.g., Cato‘s Chairman Robert Levy, and Cato/George Mason‘s Ilya Somin, on vaccine mandates;4 Tyler Cowen of George Mason on lockdowns;5 and so on.

No doubt the Kochtopus and DC libertarians are very unhappy with the MI/MC influence on and domination of the LP after the “Reno Reset” last May. Until now they could try to pretend MI was a minor thorn in their side and ignore them. But now its intellectual influence is magnified and amplified greatly by the MC takeover of the LP, the nation’s third-largest political party.

So is it implausible to believe that the DC libertarians want to destroy the MC in order to re-install the moderate, lockdown-obedient Old Guard in the LP? And what better way to damage the MC than to try to discredit Hoppe, the most prominent intellectual associated with the Mises Institute?6 These flaccid attacks on Hoppe will no doubt fail; all previous attempts to take him down Hoppe have.7

And perhaps not so coincidentally, Magness, the latest Hoppe attack dog, works for AIER. And, earlier this year, AIER hired William Ruger as its President, to fill the vacancy after Ed Stringham left last year. Ruger has deep ties to the Koch machine: he apparently still serves as Vice President for Research at the Charles Koch Foundation.

I have no evidence that Ruger actually tasked Magness with amping up his attacks on Hoppe (and, by proxy, on the MC and MI). But can there be any doubt that it is well-received by Ruger and others he is connected to, and that Magness is aware of this?

I doubt there is an explicit conspiracy here (I’m generally skeptical of those);8 sometimes pats on the head do the trick.

Update: Magness responds (on Facebook):

I would not have expected you to go full on Nancy MacLean “the Koch Brothers may have put him up to it!” conspiracy theorizing, but in case anyone is still interested in reality, here’s the Occam’s Razor explanation: In the last 1-2 weeks, the Libertarian Party’s social media stream has started aggressively pushing Hoppe as the philosophical lodestar of libertarianism. That in turn induced me to make the same exact criticisms of Hoppe that I have been pointing out for several years.

Update:

Appendix

Here are some excerpts from my interchange with Magness on the 2019 Facebook post and his article Racial Determinism and Immigration in the Works of Ludwig von Mises:

Kinsella:

“I”m skimming your piece and to be honest, it seems utterly confused. Hoppe is an anarchist, Mises is not. Hoppe is if anything more open borders than is Mises. Hoppe’s case is not based on race theory. Hoppe’s analysis of democracy and immigration I think has almost nothing to do with Habermas dude. Even his rights theory has only a slight connexion to Habermas. Honestly your entire argument seems utterly misplaced and bizarre to me. …

Honestly Hoppe’s argument is not that hard to understand. Hoppe is an anarchist. Unlike Mises. Mises was not an anarchist and did not favor open borders. As for racism, Mises was a man of his time like my or your grandfathers, probably. Hoppe’s theories don’t depend on this stuff. He is a full-throated liberal and libertarian, a cosmopolitan in the best sense. I am sure he is a better libertarian and even better economist than Mises, in almost every respect–simply because of the “standing on shoulder of giants” phenomenon. This is not to diss Mises. But your suggestions seem ludicrous to me. There is almost nothing of Habermas in Hans except a hint in his argumentation ethics. His immigration views are a combination of common sense and economic theory–he is way more open borders than Mises, since he’s an actual anarchist and full-throated libertarian. He basically sees–since he is an anarchist, unlike Mises–that the state’s existence means that whatever immigration policy the state enforces, there will be winners, and losers. That’s why Hoppe says that if you have immigration restrictions, it will violate rights, which he calls forced exclusion; if you have a modern democratic state with open borders, this will violate rights in the form of forced integration. Both are unavoidable given a modern democratic state, so the only way to reduce harm overall is to decentralize the state. None of this relies on Habermas or even Mises, to be honest, except for the free trade stuff. Hoppe is the ultimate liberal and the best libertarian theorist alive today.

In particular, Hoppe explicitly condemns the negative effects of state control of borders and public property and law:

“If a domestic resident-owner invites a person and arranges for his access onto the resident-owner’s property but the government excludes this person from the state territory, it is a case of forced exclusion (a phenomenon that does not exist in a natural order). On the other hand, if the government admits a person while there is no domestic resident-owner who has invited this person onto his property, it is a case of forced integration (also nonexistent in a natural order, where all movement is invited). … By admitting someone onto its territory, the state also permits this person to proceed on public roads and lands to every domestic resident’s doorsteps, to make use of all public facilities and services (such as hospitals and schools), and to access every commercial establishment, employment, and residential housing, protected by a multitude of non-discrimination laws.”

Notice he is opposing here what happens when the state restricts immigration–it’s forced exclusion, or a rights violation. this is why he is for anarchy:

“the solution to the immigration problem is at the same time the solution to the general problem inherent in the institution of a State and of public property. It involves the return to a natural order by means of secession. To regain security from domestic and foreign intrusion and invasion, the central nation States will have to be broken up into their constituent parts. The Austrian and the Italian central States do not own Austrian and Italian public property; they are its citizens’ trustees. Yet they do not protect them and their property. Hence, just as the Austrians and the Italians (and not foreigners) are the owners of Austria and Italy, so by extension of the same principle do the Carinthians and the Lombards (in accordance with individual tax payments) own Carinthia and Lombardy, and the Bergamese Bergamo (and not the Viennese and the Roman governments).

In a decisive first step, individual provinces, regions, cities, towns and villages must declare their independence from Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Paris, and proclaim their status as “free territories.” Extensive efforts by the central States to the contrary notwithstanding, strong provincial affiliations and attachments still l exist in many regions, cities and villages all across Europe. It is vital to tap into these provincial and local sentiments in taking this first step. With every successive act of regional secession the power of the central State will be diminished. It will be stripped of more of its public property, its agents’ range of access will increasingly be restricted, and its laws will apply in smaller and smaller territories, until it ultimately withers away.

However, it is essential to go beyond “political secession” to the privatization of property. …”

Ultimately, Hoppe argues for anarchy, libertarian private property, and decentralization, not some “white nationalist” or “Habermasian” crap:

“What should one hope for and advocate as the relatively correct immigration policy, however, as long as the democratic central state is still in place and successfully arrogates the power to determine a uniform national immigration policy? The best one may hope for, even if it goes against the “nature” of a democracy and thus is not very likely to happen, is that the democratic rulers act as if they were the personal owners of the country and as if they had to decide who to include and who to exclude from their own personal property (into their very own houses). This means following a policy of utmost discrimination: of strict discrimination in favor of the human qualities of skill, character, and cultural compatibility.”

Magness:
“My point is to respond to Slobodian’s claimed genealogy for Hoppe’s propertarian argument for the permissibility of immigration restrictions.”
Kinsella:
From your various slights and digs against Hoppe I doubt this is your only “point”. But let that pass. I mean who is “Slobodian”? I have never heard of this guy. He seems to have come after Hoppe’s works, so it’s weird he could be evidence in your case to smear Hoppe. Hoppe was not influenced by “Slobodian”, I think.
Magness:
“Slobodian says – incorrectly – that this comes from Mises.
I am saying that the argumentation ethic foundation behind it comes from Habermas, and the normative claim about immigrants comes from a mixture of Rushton, Brimelow, Borjas, Raspail, and similar writers with an interest in right wing race theory.”
Kinsella:
Hoppe’s argumentation ethics “comes from” … who knows. A variety of influences. Habermas, Apel, and others, like Mises, and Rothbard. So what? What in the world has this to do with his immigration analysis? In the end, it “comes from” his anarcho-libertarian radical perspective on the state. One I assume, at this point, you do not share. So he’s a radical anarchist, and you are not. So what?
Magness:
Slobodian is the latest trendy thing in the vacuous but influential academic wasteland known as neoliberalism studies. The quality of his work is undeserving of the attention it receives as it is basically conspiracy theorizing writ large. But that stuff flies in the academy. And hence I am replying to him – specifically this paper (Anti-’68ers and the Racist-Libertarian Alliance: How a Schism among Austrian School Neoliberals Helped Spawn the Alt Right)
As to who knows, we do in fact know the answer of where the primary influence comes from. Hoppe specifically and repeatedly cites it to Habermas and Apel. Yes – it undoubtedly has bits and pieces of other influences. But the primary claim is clear. And since Slobodian is asserting a different intellectual genealogy, I’m pointing out the error by noting the one that Hoppe himself cites.
Kinsella:
I had forgotten about this thread. One point I think I failed to make clearly before: of course I am not denying the influence of Habermas on Hoppe’s right theory. But it is only a tiny sliver of Habermas’s overall theories, and it is combined with insights Hoppe got also from Mises (on Austrian economics and scarcity) and Rothbard (on various radical libertarian notions). These Hoppe combines in his argumentation ethic.
However, this has literally nothing to do with his immigration views, which are simply based on his radical libertarian propertarian anarchism. Hoppe was a libertarian and anarchist before he came up with his argumentation ethics. He was not a libertarian because of his argumentation ethics. He was already an anarcho-libertarian, and then separately came up with the idea “here is an alternative way to justify our libertarian principles–with argumentation ethics.” But his immigration theories stem from his basic libertarian political views, not the argument for rights he came up with. IMHO.
*****
Regarding the most recent Facebook post (Aug. 30, 2022) noted above, in response to someone asking me to weigh in (Tom Woods had already done so), I wrote:

What is there to say? I don’t agree w/ Magness. I agree w/ Tom Woods. Magness seems to be employing the unfair smears that the left frequently uses. I see nothing wrong with the quoted language above. Magness says Hoppe “believes Germany was unfairly villainized during WWII”, but unless I’m missing something, the quotes don’t say this at all. It’s talking about how after the war the American gov’t led an effort to paint Germans as “congenital villains.” That seems plausible to me, thinking back on how Germans are portrayed and mocked all the time over the last decades since the war. And of course Germans are not congenital villains.

Elsewhere in the comments, I objected to Magness’s accusations and interpretations–my comments, lightly edited:

“And I’m just going to say it: Hoppe is a Nazi sympathizer.”

Well except for the fact that he despises Nazism and it’s utterly contrary to his entire edifice of thought. Other than that. As in his critique in “Chapter 5: The Socialism of Conservatism” in TSC or in “De-Socialization in a United Germany“.

Or that he utterly opposes all forms of socialism and defines socialism as the institutionalized aggression against private property rights (ch. 1 of TSC), which Naziism certainly does. As he wrote here, “Hitler and the National Socialists ruined the businesses and careers of hundreds of thousands ofGerman citizens.”

Hoppe despises all forms of socialism, including Naziism–that is, Socialism “Russian-Style,” Socialism “Social-democratic style,” “The socialism of conservatism,” and “the socialism of social engineering.” All of it.
But yeah, other than that.

… the burden is on you and you have evinced no proof behind this horrific accusation. And I’ve been associated closely with him since 1994, and know his views and character very well. There is zero basis for your accusations. You are simply incorrect. He despises Nazism, fascism, as well as other forms of socialism such as communism, social democracy, and so on. He is not a eugenicist at all. He is not a racist. He is a sweet, decent, kind, intelligent, cosmopolitan man, who is a strong and principled hard-core anarchist libertarian. I really don’t know what has filled your head but you are delusional. You’ve got to stop listening to his dishonest critics. You keep trying to trot out some things he has written to prove your hunch but they are always off the mark. You say he objects to the notion that Germany was the villain in WW2 but that is not what he said; he said American propaganda portrays Germans as “congenital villains.” You then shift to the guilt by association thing, e.g. Spencer; but he had Spencer one time to speak in 2010 when he was a libertarian-leaning conservative; when Spencer later moved into the alt-right stuff Hoppe explicitly criticized him. You are doing what the left does with these tactics. You really should reevaluate IMHO. Something about Hoppe makes you hate him and so you are resorting to dishonest tactics, or you have listened too much to some of his dishonest critics–the Tom Palmer types or whatever. IMHO.

…I will also tell you this: I myself despise racism and Naziism, eugenics, all that crap. Utterly despise it. I would simply not associate with or be friends, much less close friends, with someone that I thought held these views. I’ve been very close friends with Hans since 1994, largely because of his radical and principled libertarian ideas, his Austrian economic analyses, and so on, and also because he’s a kind, nice, gentle, loving, and, yes, tolerant, cosmopolitan, decent, man. Why he drives some people like you up the wall is a mystery. It reminds me of what Rothbard wrote long ago,

“The Lomasky review is an interesting example of what is getting to be a fairly common phenomenon: Hoppephobia. Although he is an amiable man personally, Hoppe’s written work seems to have the remarkable capacity to send some readers up the wall, blood pressure soaring, muttering and chewing the carpet. It is not impolite attacks on critics that does it. Perhaps the answer is Hoppe’s logical and deductive mode of thought and writing, demonstrating the truth of his propositions and showing that those who differ are often trapped in self-contradiction and self-refutation.”

Update: comment by Ryan Griggs on a Facebook thread:

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  1. For just a sampling of some of this, see e.g. Palmer Lies about Involuntary Unemployment–yet again! ha ha ha; Palmer on Coase and Hoppe; Raico Cleans Tom Palmer’s ClockDisinvited From CatoThings Go Better With Koch … ?What Kind of Libertarian Are You? [on Cato’s many unlibertarian positions]; McCosker on Kinsella on Palmer on Hoppe; Boudreaux on Hoppe on Immigration; Palmer the Desperate Smear-artist; Woods versus Somebody. []
  2. See, e.g., Jeffrey A. Tucker, “The Disgrace of the Old Guard,” Epoch Times (Sep. 5, 2022; 12ft).  []
  3. Hoppe, “Libertarianism and the Alt-Right: In Search of a Libertarian Strategy for Social Change.” []
  4. Robert Levy, “Vaccine Mandates: A Liberty-​minded Perspective“; Can Vaccine Mandates Be Justified? A Soho Forum Debate. []
  5. Benjamin Powell, “Tyler Cowen Is Wrong About Great Barrington Declaration on Lockdown Policies“; Tyler Cowen on the Pandemic, Revisited. []
  6. As Jeff Tucker once noted, “Hoppe is one of the leading intellectuals in the world today, a big thinker on the level of a Hume, Hegel, Kant, Marx, and Mises.” See  “Conspiracies and How to Defeat Them” and “Don’t Think About Elephants”: Jeffrey Tucker on Hoppe’s New Book: The Great Fiction. See also Jeff Tucker on PFS 2012: The Center of the Conspiracy:

    When I saw Hans at the first dinner, I asked him about this passage and whether it foreshadowed his own scarcity-based theory of private property. Impressively, he remembered the passage perfectly, almost like he has just re-read it too. He granted that Mises was getting close to the right idea, and then pointed out that he developed this notion further in his 1940 work published in German.

    Moments like this remind us of what it means to be a great intellectual on Hoppe’s level. Ideas live in your mind as real things. Literature and history animate your thoughts and days. Your capacity for comparing and integrating ideas across countries and centuries occupies a much larger place in your mind than the passing headlines of the day.

    See also Jeffrey Tucker’s Editorial Preface to The Great Fiction (2012):

    If you are unfamiliar with the working of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, prepare for The Great Fiction to cause a fundamental shift in the way you view the world. No living writer today is more effective at stripping away the illusions almost everyone has about economics and public life. More fundamentally, Professor Hoppe causes the scales to fall from one’s eyes on the most critical issue facing humanity today: the choice between liberty and statism.

    And As Guido Hülsmann and I observe in our Introduction to Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Mises Institute, 2009), Hoppe is without a doubt one of the most important libertarian scholars of our time:

    He has made pioneering contributions to sociology, economics, philosophy, and history. He is the dean of the present-day Austrian School of economics, and is famous as a libertarian philosopher. He and his writings have inspired scholars all over the world to follow in his footsteps and to provide a scientific foundation for individual freedom and a free society.

    See also Kinsella, “Hoppe: First significant thinker to get libertarianism totally right“; Hoppe Ranked #36 Most Influential Philosopher, 1990–2020; Kinsella, “Hoppe: A Précis” and “Read Hoppe, Then Nothing Is the Same.” []

  7. See, e.g., Hoppe, “My Battle With The Thought Police“; Hans-Hermann Hoppe Victory Blog; Kinsella & Tucker, “The Ordeal of Hoppe“; see also Kinsella, “Hoppe on Covenant Communities and Advocates of Alternative Lifestyles.” []
  8. Kinsella, “On Conspiracy Theories.” []
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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Transformer September 7, 2022, 1:11 pm

    Good to know that Magness’s objections to Hoppe have nothing to do with Hoppe’s vision for a Libertarian future that requires white , male, Christian communities that are encouraged to exclude people based on race and sexual preference in order to be viable, or his view that National Socialism is on the right lines but needs tore think its socialist economics a bit and is entirely down to a tiff between the MI and AEIR.

  • Thomas L. Knapp September 8, 2022, 4:31 am

    It’s always sad to see a decent mind like yours roll around in the mud trying to rescue a second-rate hack like Hoppe.

    • Just asking September 8, 2022, 5:28 am

      I failed to find Thomas L. Knapp in Google Scholar and Scopus databases.

      Have you published anything ?

      • Thomas L. Knapp September 8, 2022, 7:21 pm

        Feel free to point out where I claimed to have “published anything.” I’m not an academic writer. When I’m published it’s usually in newspaper op-ed pages (about 1,500 times a year last time I checked), not journals.

        • Stephan Kinsella September 9, 2022, 10:43 am

          Maybe this is why you are unable to appreciate the significance of Hoppe’s thought, though I suspect it’s something else–simpleminded left-libertarian animus or something.

          • Thomas L. Knapp September 9, 2022, 11:31 am

            I very much appreciate the significance of Hoppe’s work. It’s the value of that work I disagree with you on. I discovered and read Hoppe when I was a “right-libertarian” and he played a major role in showing me the errors of the paleoconservative deviation from libertarianism

    • Stephan Kinsella September 8, 2022, 5:34 pm
  • sdfsjlflsdkfjslfj September 10, 2022, 10:20 am

    @Thomas L. Knapp

    What is libertarianism ?

  • just a nym dude September 15, 2022, 4:48 pm

    The saddest part of libertarians is the occasional envy. Both Rothbard and Hoppe are happy thinkers who bring light to any reader who approaches them. But of their rivals have only bitterness and contempt for life. There are more of these types on the so called left. Maybe an inherited trait from inbred bastards like Malthus and the Huxleys.
    Seriously, no libertarian ought to be jelly or depressed: Hoppeanism über alles is the way for a thousand years of happiness.
    I can see already the Eagles flying in each one of the independent communities of the nascent libertarian world, which are a more elegant symbol than helicopters, and more efficient in terms of energy.

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