William F. Buckley assures us that, no, the sky is not falling {"Getting Hysterical Over Population," op-ed, Dec. 27}. Julian Simon and others have cooked up a soothing broth of statistics to show that the best of all worlds will only become better as more people become available to operate it properly.

But the value of human life cannot be measured in per-capita income, census figures or technical accomplishments. It has meaning only in the context of the world and all other living things. When this context is essentially destroyed, our humanity is greatly damaged.

All populations are subject to limitations in number. In theory, we can stabilize our numbers to match the carrying capacity of our world. If we don't do that, however, it will be done for us, and it won't be pleasant. No amount of tinkering with the GNP figures of Singapore and Hong Kong will alter this.

-- David Rockwell

William F. Buckley, the patron saint of American conservatism, touted the latest census data as proof that a growing population is a prerequisite for a growing economy. This conservative theology is even beginning to gain acceptance on your editorial page {"250 Million Americans," Dec. 28}. Never mind that despite a population growth of 50 million people during the past two decades, real wages for the average American have remained stagnant or declined.

Buckley cited Singapore and Hong Kong as examples of countries (if you can call them that) with dense populations, high per-capita incomes and high growth rates. To emphasize his points, he also cited a few countries with low population densities, low per-capita incomes and low fertility rates. He conveniently left out examples like Canada (low density, high income and moderate growth rate) and Bangladesh (extremely high density, excruciating poverty and explosive fertility).

If a few carefully selected statistics weren't enough to convince us, Buckley reinforced his point by quoting economist Ed Rubenstein. "Other things being equal, countries with large populations enjoy higher and more rapidly growing output per worker," Rubenstein is quoted as saying. But "other things" are never equal, and population, as often as not, is one factor in a declining standard of living.

Alexander Hamilton wrote, "The wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes. Situation, soil, climate, the nature of the productions, the nature of the government, the genius of the citizens, the degree of information they possess, the state of commerce, of arts, of industry -- these circumstances and many more ... occasion differences hardly conceivable in the relative opulence and riches of different countries."

The factors cited by Hamilton, not rapid population growth, will determine America's prosperity. -- Dan Stein The writer is executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.