Nick Gillespie on What to Expect When No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster"

In the latest issue of Bookforum, I review Jonathan V. Last's much-discussed What to Expect When No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster.

It's an interesting, extremely well-written book that starts out by rightly mocking Paul Ehrlich and other early '70s doomsayers for fretting over a "population bomb" that had already been effectively defused by the time they were predicting massive starvation around the globe. Which isn't to say that Last doesn't stint on what he considers to be the real apocalypse: a horrifically underpopulated planet.

He's totally convincing on two points. First, fertility rates are declining and will likely continue to. Second, that there's very little that can be done to reverse that. From the review:

Last’s conservatism guides his recognition that there is essentially nothing that governments can do to reverse declining fertility rates. Japan, the country that represents the leading edge in “demographic disaster,” has tried for decades to boost its population by giving parents stipends and cash bonuses, creating nationalized networks of day-care centers, and more. The results? Continuously falling birthrates, a subculture that dresses dogs like babies and pushes them around in carriages, and a booming market in hyperrealistic-looking robot babies.

Nothing has worked on a large scale to promote fertility. Stalin awarded “Motherhood Medals” to women with six or more living children, but the program did nothing to increase the next generation of new Soviet men and women. Authoritarian Singapore has thrown money, housing, ad campaigns, tax incentives, and sex instruction at couples, but all for naught. “If Singapore,” sighs Last, “can’t convince its modern, sophisticated population to have babies, what hope does anyone have? The answer may well be, ‘not much.’”...

All merits aside, I find Last's gentle millenarianism unconvincing in the final analysis:

But many, if not all, of the issues raised by [declines in population] are less clear-cut emergencies than Last contends; they may not be serious problems at all. For instance, consider Social Security. Everyone agrees that the program as currently structured is unsustainable. Benefits will be cut, taxes will be increased, or policy makers will use some combination of these approaches. We all may have differing views on how—or even whether—to provide taxpayer-funded income to retirees. But there’s no reason to believe that older Americans, already the wealthiest slice of the population in terms of total assets, will be reduced to eating cat food.

Read the whole review here.

Come for the review, but stay for this enjoyable rant against Bookforum's editor, Chris Lehmann, for assigning a review of Last's book in the first place and giving the job to me in the second. From the ballpoint pen of "Louis Proyect: Unrepentant Marxist":

What the fuck? Nick Gillespie reviewing some book about “America’s Coming Demographic Disaster”? Gillespie is the editor of Reason Magazine, a Koch-funded libertarian publication that fancies itself “rebellious” after the fashion of Spiked Online in Great Britain. In fact Gillespie has adopted the slightly punkish look of many Spiked writers, wearing a black leather jacket for his occasional Bill Maher appearance. My only advice to this 50-year-old man is to stop dyeing his hair. The shoe polish tint is just a bit too Reaganesque.

My first reaction to spotting this article in a magazine I paid good money for was akin to seeing a hair on an entrée that had just been delivered to my table at a pricey restaurant. It turned my stomach. At least in a restaurant I could send the dish back but what was I supposed to do with the Bookforum? Send it back to Chris Lehmann with instructions to replace Gillespie’s article by something written by Scott McLemee or Liza Featherstone? Fat chance of that.

After taking a swig of Kaopectate, I sat down to read Gillespie’s article. I figured that Lehmann, being a pretty smart young fellow, might have seen some wisdom in it that made it worth publishing. Boy, was I wrong.

For the record - and as my colleagues can plainly attest - I don't dye my hair, which is more full of silvery strands every goddamn day. To paraphrase the historian Eugene Genovese regarding a communist victory in Vietnam, I don't fear my hair turning gray, I welcome it. And, kind Louis, Kaopectate is mostly for diarrhea, not indigestion. For the latter, I recommend Pepcid, Zantac, or another over-the-counter acid blocker.

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  • Hugh Akston||

    The results? Continuously falling birthrates, a subculture that dresses dogs like babies and pushes them around in carriages, and a booming market in hyperrealistic-looking robot babies.

    All of this has happened before...

  • Andrew S.||

    Frakking toasters.

  • Wind Rider||

    You know you're a #6 fanboi.

  • MJGreen||

    There must be some way out of here.

  • Andrew S.||

    I can take a lot of idiocy, but insulting the jacket? That's just going too far.

  • Xeones||

    Don't worry, Andrew. The Jacket can take care of itself. Next time Louis turns out the lights...

    It will be there.

    Waiting.

    Hungry.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Gee, what could possibly be done in the U.S. to help replace population loss to to falling birth rates?

    Also, don't know who Chris Lehmann is but he sounds like your typical no class left wing idiot with nothing intelligent to add to the conversation.

  • Brett L||

    Gee, what could possibly be done in the U.S. to help replace population loss to to falling birth rates?

    I don't know, but once they get this AIDS thing beaten, I plan on doing my part to impregnate as many women as it takes to stave off disaster.

  • The Minority||

    Louis Proyect is like a bizarro GILMORE.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Gillmore is the internet "playa", GILMORE is a regular.

    Poor GILMORE.

  • John||

    The funny part of the whole thing is the Kochs give something like $15 million a year to political causes. That is it. Meanwhile people like Soros and Bloomburg pump hundreds of millions of dollars into politics every year and pretty much every major charitable foundation from Ford to MacArthur to Annenberg has been taken over by leftists and turned into outright political lobbying fronts. But somehow the Kochs are this malevolent force destroying America and foiling all of the Progtards' great plans.

  • Zeb||

    It is quite funny. And, as far as I know, the Kochs give a whole lot more money to cultural and educational causes (and ones that liberals like too) than to political ones.

  • John||

    The unfunny part is that it shows how totalitarian the left really is. No voice of dissent, no matter how small, can ever be tolerated.

  • JD the elder||

    Koch money taints everything it touches, because the Kochs are bad. Soros, Bloomberg, the NIH, etc. are good, so their money has no moral effect. This lets the leftist easily and conveniently determine the worth of an argument without having to do any annoying, time-wasting stuff like actually reading it or thinking about it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The New Yorker profile of the Kochs basically said this. To refute the idea that Soros was as bad as the Kochs, they interviewed someone from one of Soros's foundations. Case closed.

  • PTSD'd Lawyer||

    I was once on the opposite side of the Kochs in a business deal. They are some serious hard-asses.

  • phandaal||

    How much did they pay you to write this??

    ...and can I get some of that money, too?

  • Xeones||

    The Kochs also donate tons of money to PBS. Should that fact pierce the veil of ignorance with which the typical progressive surrounds itself, heads will surely explode.

  • John||

    Most of the remaining decent shows on PBS that don't come from the BBC, NOVA, Nature and such, are funded by the Kochs. Whenever I watch some egghead PBS show and the opening says it was funded by the Kochs, I smile at the thought of the angry tears of all the progtards watching it.

  • ||

    Progtards are not watching actual shows on PBS. To them, it's just something to support because it is public and leans left, therefore good.

  • phandaal||

    They don't see it. The word Koch morphs into Michelle Obama, much like four fingers can morph into five.

  • Heedless||

    Three lights!

  • wheelock||

    We can never rest until the kochs evil influence has been removed from polite society. Come now comrades, let us raze the west wing of the NYC natural history museum to the ground!

  • deified||

    David Koch funds NOVA.

    Ergo, he is an effin' Commie. Or a NAZI. Or something.

    /progtard

  • wareagle||

    but Soros and Bloomy are giving to "the right" causes so their donations are to advance good causes. The Kochtopus, meanwhile, is the Kochtopus.

  • Wind Rider||

    Still waiting to be embraced in its slithering tentacles. *sigh*

  • albo||

    Countries get richer, women have more options. And when countries tax and regulate so much that two people have to work to earn a living and feed children, women have fewer kids.

    Germany gives you money to have kids, and they couldn't solve it, and they're a country full of Germans, for God's sake.

    Immigration is the only thing keeping our fertility level at replacement.

  • wareagle||

    birth rates in communities with ready access to the welfare state do not seem to suffer the low fertility effect. But that's probably just coincidence.

  • The Minority||

    School choice would help. Then parents wouldn't have to buy in expensive neighborhoods or pay insane private-school tuition to send their kids to decent schools.

  • NoVAHockey||

    no shit. we're a two income family in the DC area. it's either 10k for Catholic school or upwards of 30k for private school. for fucking kindergarten. and that doesn't cover the summer.

  • Tim||

    "I'm hysterical, I'm having hysterics. When I get like this, I can't stop. (Max throws water on him) I'M WET!!! I'M WET!!! I'm hysterical and I'm wet!"

  • Tim||

  • The Late P Brooks||

    a booming market in hyperrealistic-looking robot babies.

    Still waiting for my hyperrealistic robot Judy Jetson.

    DISAPPOINTED!

  • ||

    Babble the fuck on, my brother.

  • cavalier973||

    I just borrowed the first season of "The Jetsons" from the library; I discovered that Jane Jetson was 18 years old when she had Judy.

  • MJGreen||

    Only 990 more years until I can get my Lucy Liubot.

  • ||

    Finally, someone reveals Nick's fascist agenda.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Stalin awarded “Motherhood Medals” to women with six or more living children, but the program did nothing to increase the next generation of new Soviet men and women.

    Should have been nicer to the Pope, dumbass.

  • Tim||

    Bill Clinton did some yeoman work in this area as well.

  • John||

    Maybe if we cut taxes to a point that people could raise kids on one income and stopped making every parental decision subject to State CPS oversight, people would have more children.

  • wareagle||

    oh sure, it's always cutting taxes for bazillionaires. Meanwhile, the poor working folk have to make do with day old Ramen and stale peanut butter. But you enjoy your yacht that was built using slave labor and hiding your money in overseas shelters instead of patriotically handing it to the govt for greater purposes, like this one: http://cnsnews.com/news/articl.....snail-sex.

    /progtard

  • Andrew S.||

    But if things change, who will polish my monocles?

  • ||

    The hyperrealistic robot babies.

    It may be more efficient, of course, but I'll miss the sound of his lively breath as he fogs the gold rim and glass before the polish.

  • Zeb||

    I think that would probably encourage some people to have more children. But I think that most people at this point don't want to have a whole bunch of kids. There is too much other cool stuff to do.

    Will this all cause some pain because of demographic problems? Probably, but it seems likely that population will stabilize at some time before too long and that those changes are ultimately inevitable.

  • John||

    It would help on the margins. And it is not like our fertility rates are that bad. Even a small increase would help a lot. Also, it would become reinforcing as having larger families became more common and more acceptable. And kids can actually be fun.

  • Wind Rider||

    Reading between the tea leaves it looks like the Jacket may have some dark horse competition for the hand of Ms. Coulter. NTTAWWT

  • The Late P Brooks||

    At least in a restaurant I could send the dish back but what was I supposed to do with the Bookforum?

    SIUYA

    hth

  • Lord Humungus||

    Many women in my circle of friends have no children. About the same number have one child. And I can only think of three of them that have two kids. And we're talking mid-30s, early 40s here, so not exactly a teeming pool of fertility.

  • John||

    Hard to get pregnant in your 30s. In an ideal world, women would have children in their late teens and early 20s, and then go to college and have a career in their late 20s. We are getting to a point where people can work and be productive into their 70s. If you start a career at age 30, that is 40 years to do it. You may be able to work in your 50s, but if you are a woman, you cant have kids then. The four years of college right out of high school and then career before marriage model really screws women.

  • albo||

    If this were xoJane or Jezebel you'd be so flamed right now your liver would be on fire.

  • John||

    Their heads would explode in rage. But that would only be because nothing hurts worse than the truth.

  • NoVAHockey||

    i wonder if we didn't error in waiting. it's great and not a problem. but chasing a 3 year old would be a lot easier at 24 than 34. and my job responsibilities were a lot less back then.

  • Overt||

    Not for me. I look at kids right out of college and they spend WAY too much time working. They don't know how to prioritize or work smart, so they work hard.

    Nothing wrong with that, but I certainly don't think it would be helped by having children.

    Having kids in my mid 30's, I had a decent career, and the means to balance work and family without thinking it would destroy my paycheck. The less energy and poorer physical shape are small costs compared to having a more established life.

  • Overt||

    And by the way, there is lots of research to back this up. The biggest determinants of a kid's success are the socio-economic status of the parents.

    If the parents are more wealthy, the kids will do better. If the parents have college degrees the kids will do better. And you are less and less likely to complete a college degree the further out from the first four years of highschool that you get.

    I had a good job in my 20s and an explosive career. But I still fretted when we had major car repairs, or when we saved up for a house. I only had 2 weeks of vacation and I was working late nights to get ahead. Trying to do that with kids would have been much harder.

  • John||

    If the parents are more wealthy, the kids will do better. If the parents have college degrees the kids will do better.

    Correlation does not equal causality. Those kids do better because their parents are smarter and more caring. That would be true whether they went to college or not. There is nothing about college that makes that true. It is just more successful kids and college degrees are both indicators of smart well adjusted people.

  • ||

    Why does it screw women? Maybe it screws the ponzi state but women can still have children after college, and during their careers. Are you assuming women want to have children at 19? I don't know, maybe they do, but then the men they attract are not going to be the same age as them, good or bad as that may be. I can tell you one thing. It will ruin the college experience.

  • John||

    It screws them for two reason. First having kids in your 20s is much safer than having them in their 30s. It is safer for the mother and less likely to produce birth defects in the child. Second, as it is now, women have to interrupt their careers to have children. That is more than anything what keeps women from going past the glass ceiling. Right when they hit their peak earning potential they either drop out of the work place altogether or devote a large amount of their time to raising children. Either way, it holds them back. If their children were already in school when they started their careers, that wouldn't happen.

  • ||

    The problem with having kids earlier, though, is that it's not like they actually go away. You don't ever, ever, ever get that time of "not having kids" back. They're just older.

  • John||

    True. But it is easier to have a career with a 10 year old than it is with a three year old.

  • Overt||

    Zuh? Do you have kids?

    Having kids in your 20's his BARELY safer than having them in your 30s. The female body is perfectly able to have kids at these ages, with only a tiny amount of additional risk. It's waiting until your 40s where risk climbs.

    By waiting until you are in your 30s you are more mature and established in your career. You are more likely to have savings and wealth that can offset the costs of having and caring for kids.

    This advice for women to have kids way early reminds me of the scene with the t-rex in Meet the Robinsons. "I just don't think this plan was thought out very well"

  • John||

    Overt,

    You are also younger and have a lot more energy in your 20s. Most 30 something parents I know look very tired all of the time.

  • ant1sthenes||

    But having them in your 30s means either a big break in your career (and followup retraining issues), or a shitload of life/work balance issues, to say nothing of daycare costs dramatically reducing the profitability of that career. Having kids out of high school, and taking a very slow college path would make even more sense... by the time the kids are 10ish and able to be a little more autonomous, you can start your career, with no more delay than some poor idiot who got swallowed up by academia and the pursuit of the PhD.

  • Scarcity||

    I can tell you one thing. It will ruin the college experience.

    Excellent point. But whatever, I got mine. Future whippersnappers can find some other way to have promiscuous sex with hot young things.

  • wareagle||

    that actually should not be surprising. The feminist movement had some success in inculcating teh "career above all" mentality into an entire generation that worked to get ahead until it heard the faint ticking of biology in the backward somewhere around age 35. At that point, it's pretty much one and done, or none at all given the risks of pregnancy beyond that age.

  • albo||

    The professional couple's One Perfect Child. My two cousins took that route.

    One child is easier to lug to Whole Foods, plus no more fertility issues to worry about with trying for a second child.

  • Andrew S.||

    You just described me. My wife and I have one kid. And we take her to Whole Foods on occasion!

  • NoVAHockey||

    it's true. we're discussing the 2nd now. and it's basically now or never.

  • Tim||

    Must be a nice feeling; that something you wrote inspired a complete tantrum in a grown man and alleged intellectual.

  • Tony||

    But there’s no reason to believe that older Americans, already the wealthiest slice of the population in terms of total assets, will be reduced to eating cat food.

    They have houses they can chew on.

  • ||

    Or they could sell their valuable house and live in a lesser home...and eat.

    Idiot.

  • Matrix||

    No, the priviledged should never have to give up their lifestyle because their income changes. Those who work and are not priviledge should do all we can to support them. Grandma and Grandpa deserve to still keep their BMW, while you working schmucks can barely afford to buy and maintain a rusty ol' beater while still supporting Grandpa and Grandma. That's the way it's supposed to be.

  • Randian||

    Louis Proyect fancies himself intelligent??

    How?

    The article begins with a reference to Paul Ehrlich, the neo-Malthusian who wrote a book about “the population bomb” in 1968. According to Jonathan V. Last, the author of “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster”—a book whose message Gillespie is touting, the opposite problem is looming:

    This is how making the personal political makes people dumb: Proyect assumes because KOCH BROTHERS that Nick Gillespie's review (which he obviously either didn't read or did read and was too stupid to actually comprehend) endorses the message that the State should prop up birth rates?

    I mean, how dumb do you have to be?

  • John||

    It makes you totally incapable of understanding nuance. Pryect cannot comprehend how someone could think that low birth rates are not a problem without going completely the other way and endorsing neo-Malthusian philosophy.

  • Randian||

    He basically collapses Gillespie's review, Last's book, and Lehmann's editorship of the magazine all into one: endorsement of Last's book. That's not just stupid; that's Full Retard.

  • John||

    That is what happens when you live in the Lefty hive. You lose the ability to think and to make arguments. Think about how lazy and sloppy being around only people who disagree with out about degrees and never about principle would make you.

  • ||

    I hope no one tells him who Kerry Howley is and that she had a piece in there too recently. Actually I hope someone does, so he can explain how it's Koch propaganda. I would love to know.

  • SugarFree||

    Know my pain! HAHAHAHA!

  • ||

    Goddamn you Sug and Chrome too.

  • John||

    That is the dumbest article I have ever read. Wow do I not miss Howley being on the Reason staff.

  • wareagle||

    I mean, how dumb do you have to be?
    ----------
    in proggyville, as dumb as possible. Alternatively, somewhat smart but unwilling to debate someone on topic and relying on dog-whistle stuff like "Koch!" to paint the other person as illegitimate.

  • Lord Peter Wimsey||

    My favorite part is the title: "Kinder, Kuche, Kircher: Propaganda in Book Forum." One day you're a left wing book review site, the next day you're fascists.

    Or, put another way: "Everything we disagree with is fascism."

  • ||

    As guilt by association is a very common fallacy even around these parts, it shouldn't surprise that it's even more common elsewhere.

  • fish||

    Louis Proyect: Unrepentant Marxist

    Louis Proyect: Useless Revolutionary Tourist

    There you go Louis.... corrected at no charge!

    You would think that since the brutality required for Lous perfectly society to exist is now clearly understood there would be some externally applied opprobrium for endorsing the philosophy behind TEAM INDUSTRIAL MURDER!

    I guess not.

    I guess shame truly is out of fashion!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    the opposite problem is looming

    Let me guess- this guy lives in Manhattan, and there are more people within a mile of him than are within five hundred miles of me.

    Fucking objective reality- how does it work?

  • albo||

    Population is an asset, not a burden. There's a fetus somewhere who's going to grow up and invent a cheap fusion reactor. Hopefully he's American

  • John||

    Not killing a million kids a year in the womb might kind of help that fertility problem as well.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "Hopefully he's American"

    She could have been an Indian, but she was aborted.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I don't want to live within 500 miles of a fetus-built fusion reactor.

    Kids can be pretty smart, but jesus.

  • ant1sthenes||

    I hope not, I'd hate to think that I owed cheap energy to some retarded racist troll.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Went to the commie's blog.

    Tell me if I'm off base here guys and gals: Doesn't it seem like every time you visit a site of, or read an article by one of these post-industrial, neo-marxist d-bag commentators* it's just 10,000 words vomited upon the page without ever getting around to making a convincing argument?

    Jesus.

    So many words, so little content.

    * I have to read this shit for school sometimes and all of it can be summed up with a one word abstract: "WAAAAAHHH!"

  • John||

    In fairness, the top post on his blog right now calls FDR a fascist.

    http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/

  • Matrix||

    well, a broken clock is right twice a day. They're right for the wrong reasons.

  • Lord Humungus||

    John Derbyshire had a bit where he complained how hard it was to argue against a Marxist, since their entire world was already laid out for 'em.

    I disagree - commies are some of the laziest intellectuals I've ever run across.

  • Fluffy||

    The funny thing about that idiot's rant is that it includes the usual lefty dirge about "air and water".

    Look, air I can see. If you subscribe to global warming, more people = more CO2. Fine. But spare me the "water" bit.

    What people simply fail to realize is that outside of individual watersheds, other people's water use doesn't matter to you. Rising water use in, say, Los Angeles, can have a dramatic impact on the water available to people in other western state watersheds, but it has absolutely no impact on me here in Vermont. None. Conversely, I could drink every last drop of the fucking Waloomsac River and nobody in LA would notice or care.

    The population growth left to occur this century is concentrated in India, SE Asia, and SS Africa. Just about the entire northern hemisphere is about to experience declining populations (unless immigration bails them out). That means that watersheds in the northern hemisphere are all set (with local variation as people move from place to place within countries) and the population growth still to occur can't impact our water.

  • John||

    http://www.businessinsider.com.....ers-2013-3

    And water may cease to be an issue in the next decade. Not sure if it is true, but Lockheed Martin says they have developed an economical graphine filter that will make cheap desalination possible. If that is true, it will be a miracle.

  • ||

    From the crazy Marxist:

    But the title of the book reveals Last and Gillespie’s true agenda: America’s loss of power due to a declining population. He cites Stalin’s attempt to increase the fertility rate in the USSR by awarding “Motherhood Medals” to women who bear six or more children, as well as Japan’s stipends and cash bonuses to women who agree to be breeders for the fatherland. Ah, just what an edgy magazine like Bookforum should be up to, giving space to books that fret over the consequences of women deciding that their bodies belong to them and not to the state.

    I was sure from the first paragraph that the dude couldn't write, and now I'm also sure he can't read.

  • cavalier973||

    Well, my wife and I have four children; my brother has five; my other brother has two. We're all devout Christians (and Southrons).

    We were part of a homeschool co-op when we lived in Mississippi; I don't think that any of the members had a mere one child, and several families had three or more. We were all devout Christians (and Southrons).

    It's all anecdotal, so it doesn't prove anything, but it might form the basis of a hypothesis: Southerners tend to have more children than people from other parts of the country.

    Of course, I'm a manager for FedEx, now. My fellow manager has four children (homeschools his children), and my senior manager has four children (homeschools). My manager from my previous station had five children (doesn't homeschool, but IS Southron). SO maybe being in FedEx management provides some incentive to have more than one or two children. But, again, that's anecdotal evidence.

  • cavalier973||

    I really don't know why other people decide to have large families, but for myself, when I was younger, we would have family get-togethers at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom's parents had five children (they were devout Christians, and Southrons), and so the get-togethers would have innumerable aunts and uncles and cousins, and everyone would cook this enormous meal, and we'd watch tv or play games; it was awesome. At one of those gatherings, we all gathered in the large room on the lower level, surrounding my grandfather, and just enjoyed each other's company. The image stuck with me, and I decided that having a large family was one of my goals in life.

  • cavalier973||

    An added benefit to having four kids is that, once they're old enough, I'll never have to search around for a D&D group to play with.

  • Calidissident||

    In the comments, this guy seriously claims that the last time a Marxist government was responsible for mass killings was the USSR under Stalin. I guess Mao, Pol Pot, etc. don't count cause they weren't "real Marxists." He then references Pinochet as a counter example. While Pinochet was a bad guy, his death toll of around 3,000 (at most) is a drop in the bucket compared to the communist butchers of the 20th century

  • Bobarian||

    "Kaopectate is mostly for diarrhea"

    When you're suffering from rectal-cranial inversion, diarrhea can be very hard on your stomach.

  • Lincoln||

    This is really not something that needs studying. When people feel like they are living in a world which is worthy of/safe for their children, they will have kids.

    The way things are looking now, however, we will likely see suicide rates go up in addition to birth rates going down. Bon apetite Big government. You will starve yourself to death without a tax base.

  • prolefeed||

    Ah, yes, the horror of people choosing to have the number of children they desire, and that causing the overall population to go up or down in response to this "market" demand for children.

  • Paul.||

    Progressives hate the population implosion, because it threatens their beloved public sector pyramid graft scheme.

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