Michael Higgins recently asked "What can Finland teach us?" -- the 'us' in his question refers to ethnically diverse countries. One can ask a similar question about many other small countries as well, and Bhutan would certainly qualify to be in that group. This pesky little Himalayan kingdom in our neighbourhood has instituted an interesting set of policies meant for growing its people's Gross National Happiness (GNH). These policies have made the mighty NYtimes sit up and take notice, leading to a long news story (that ties many strands into a nice happy knot), and an editorial a few days later.
We blogged about positive psychology (happiness science! ;-) just a few days ago. This is certainly a pleasant (happy?) follow up. From the NYTimes story:
In 1972, concerned about the problems afflicting other developing countries that focused only on economic growth, Bhutan's newly crowned leader, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, decided to make his nation's priority not its G.D.P. but its G.N.H., or gross national happiness.
Bhutan, the king said, needed to ensure that prosperity was shared across society and that it was balanced against preserving cultural traditions, protecting the environment and maintaining a responsive government. The king, now 49, has been instituting policies aimed at accomplishing these goals.
Now, from the editorial:
An economic cynic may argue that a country with a gross national product as small as Bhutan's can well afford to worry about its gross national happiness, and that the best way to increase G.N.H. is by increasing G.N.P. But that is essentially an untested assertion, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it isn't necessarily true. Our sense of happiness is created by many things that are not easily measured in purely economic terms, including a sense of community and purpose, the amount and content of our leisure and even our sense of the environmental and ecological stability of the world around us.