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July 3, 2018

The Economist
25 St. James Street 
London SW1A 1HG UK
Concerning page 33 in Economist vol. 427 no. 9098 Procreative struggle, July 3, 2018 
Thank you so much for your article on fertility in South Korea.  Every source I read has its own agenda; evidently this is inevitable.  All but you assume that babies are all interchangeable; one need but shout the agenda loud enough and truth and beauty will do the recruiting.  The babies, it seems to me, tend to adopt the values of parents who love them.  Endurance of an agenda thus is possible only if the legions have babies.  So how does that happen?  A team led by Richard Sibly looked at 1,700 serial field counts of animals and concluded that there is some mechanism whereby when population size falls/kinship rises past some balance point fertility rises rapidly whilst in the other direction fertility falls albeit slowly.  This has been confirmed in humans – accumulating over generations – by a study in Iceland and another in Denmark, where an explicit study of choice was made, finding that once kinship issues were accounted for (town size and distance between birthplaces of a couple) there was no effect of education or income on fertility.  It’s all kinship.  (Possibly with folic acid intake having an effect.)  Not one of the remedies your most welcome article mentions can have any effect; a couple may move birth years around a bit, but not birth number.  Of course, this has nothing to do with ethnicity; the magic circle of kin seems to be in the low hundreds of families.  A man named Calhoun published a most telling article in the Journal of the Royal Academy of Sciences and found that in mice, unlimited population grown proceeded to total extinction even if overcrowding never limited growth. 
The good news for our friends in South Korea is that many have kin in North Korea, total fertility 1.97 in 2015, which is following the universal pattern of the end game of fertility falling below replacement, leveling off for a time and then the bottom falling out.  That last has not yet been shown.  Pray Calhoun and I are wrong.  Still there just might be a chance for Korea to reestablish well circumscribed communities with viable fertility.
Linton Herbert

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