Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Take a Lesson in Happiness from Bhutan

Let Happiness Be a Nation's Measure of Success

Led by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck the kingdom of Bhutan is the only country in the world to measure well-being by Gross National Happiness (GNH), not Gross National Product (GNP). This unorthodox approach questions the values of unbridled economic progress and emphasises the importance of maintaining a balance between tradition and modernisation.

GNH is an official policy of the kingdom, passed by Parliament. One example of its use is that the country limits the number of tourists allowed to visit, as the Bhutanese complained that tourism was affecting the environment and spoiling sacred lands.

GNH also aims to put an end to spiritual hunger. Material and technological progress is not banned but it must not be detrimental to the to the value of human life and humanity's soul. It puts Buddhist principles at the heart of life, replacing the conventional measure of a nation's economic performance, the GNP. Should a nation's success be judged by its ability to produce and consume or on the quality of life and the happiness of its people?

The Bhutanese approach is based on the belief that happiness is not determined by what we own, but by our knowledge, living skills and imagination, by being not by having.

The need to incorporate unquantifiable factors, such as emotional intelligence, in economics and to base development on more than production and consumption is becoming increasingly recognised. Amartya Sen for example defines economic development in terms of freedom of basic necessities like education and healthcare.

Steps in this direction include the World Bank's Wealth Index (which includes the concepts of human capital and environmental capital), the UN Human Development Index (which measures things like education provision and hujman-rights records), and the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, which include cultural values and activities of self-improvement and group participation.

But none of these incorporates the spiritual dimension, in which mind always comes before matter and material development is a means for people to achieve personal and spiritual development. This concept leads to a type of Buddhist economics, where material factors might be measured only for the amount of time they allow followers to develop their minds and inner selves.

Foot-note: a limit is placed on the amount a person is allowed to earn and on the amount of wealth he is entitled to accumulate. It accords well with the Welsh egalitarian tradition which existed before it was swamped by the incursion of an Anglocentric pseudo-British culture, based on the profit motive and the accumulation of wealth and property, thereby creating a divisive and unequal society.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pity they don't extend that happiness to the Nepalese minority.

Anonymous said...

your just ripping of Wales Home Alan they did a piece on this months ago

http://waleshome.org/2009/07/the-pursuit-of-happiness/

alanindyfed said...

No I am not. I was unaware of this Wales Home website.
However I am now, thx to you.