Westeros is Poorly Designed
Aside from being a migration nerd, I’m also a general-purpose nerd nerd, and a hobbyist world-builder. Yes, hobbyist world-building is a thing. But because I’m both kinds of nerd here, I’m the guy who reads Lord of the Rings and is perpetually bothered by the ridiculous economic models being presented. Like, really? Everything between the Shire and Rohan is depopulated save for a few ruins here and there? Did the land just up and stop yielding harvests or something? Sure. Okay. That’s some plausible economic geography.
But in most cases, the obvious demographic and economic illiteracy of an author is totally forgivable because they’re not making any claims to realism. I don’t trouble over the absurdly small scale of warfare in Star Wars compared to the size of the galactic population and economy because, um, if I wanted realism I wouldn’t be watching Star Wars.
There is an exception to my forgiveness: Game of Thrones, or, if you prefer, A Song of Ice and Fire. This setting is often held up for its “gritty realism.” Now of course there is magic at work here; you don’t get dragons and a gazillion-foot-tall wall of ice without some kind of breach of realism. And I’m fine with all of that.
But what I’m not fine with is the ridiculous demographic illiteracy of Westeros.