That Taiwan is a mountainous island no doubt partially accounts for its teeming population. But so too does the humid, tropical climate of the lower elevations. Tropical ecosystems are the most productive in the world, in part due to their year-round growing season and generous precipitation. It’s why the majority of Taiwan’s population lives on the flat, western sliver, and why farmers there don’t need large land holdings. It’s also why the Taiwanese countryside is as populous as some American suburbs.As we whizzed by parked cars, rice paddies, and murky fish farms, I had an epiphany. I was in the country. Sweeping aside my preconceptions, I realized that “countryside” is inherently interpretable term, one that depends more on how the land is used than it does on population density.
The link between population and rural informs bad economic development policy. A rural county could have a few towns and even cities with high density. It's still a rural county in terms of dominant land use.
Density along with education is way for a community to be more productive with less population. Just look at the agricultural industry. The same trend is apparent in manufacturing. Why aren't rural towns trying to become denser and more efficient? That's the best way to attract more people.