Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gross National Happiness

The Government of Bhutan is advocating Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of GNP according to the NY Times.  This tiny country held democratic elections a year ago after its popular king stepped down and they now have a constitutional monarch with no executive powers.  They have been working on ways to quantify happiness.  Read the whole article it's quite wonderful.  A few quotations:
The goal is not happiness itself, the prime minister explained, a concept that each person must define for himself. Rather, the government aims to create the conditions for what he called, in an updated version of the American Declaration of Independence, “the pursuit of gross national happiness.” 
Specifically, the government has determined that the four pillars of a happy society involve the economy, culture, the environment and good governance. It breaks these into nine domains: psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance, each with its own weighted and unweighted G.N.H. index.
All of this is to be analyzed using the 72 indicators. Under the domain of psychological well-being, for example, indicators include the frequencies of prayer and meditation and of feelings of selfishness, jealousy, calm, compassion, generosity and frustration as well as suicidal thoughts.
Bhutan’s story today is, in one word, survival,” Mr. Dorji said. “Gross national happiness is survival; how to counter a threat to survival.”
Comment:  The idea of being able to measure happiness is intriguing.  They even have mathematical formulae to calculate it.  Happiness, a positive emotion, is creativity enhancing and certainly allows for thinking outside the box, which Bhutan has done very well.  They're going to re-assess their data every two years.  I'm looking forward to the results and a Tip of the Hat to that delightful country.

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