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Gross National Happiness - The Bhutan way of measuring Happiness

In many industrial nations, economic prosperity is often equated with happiness. However, it is well known while buying power has risen by 16% over the past 30 years in the United States the percentage of people calling themselves "very happy" has fallen from 36% to 29%. We are therefore heading for trouble if we peg our happiness to the Dow Jones index.  Seeking happiness only by improving material conditions is like grinding sand in the hopes of extracting oil.

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Gross National Happiness - The Bhutan way of measuring Happiness

Modern states do not believe that it is their job to make their citizens happy; their concern, rather, is to safeguard security and prosperity - Luca and Francesco

At a world bank forum held in February 2002 in Kathmandu, Nepal, the representative of Bhutan, a himalayan buddhist kingdom the size of Switzerland asserted while his country's gross national product was not very high he was conversely, more than satisfied with its gross national happiness index. Bhutan policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), viewed with indulgent smiles or private mockery by representatives of the over developed countries, was established in the 1980s by King Zigme Singye Wangchuck and ratified by its Parliament.

In many industrial nations, economic prosperity is often equated with happiness. However, it is well known while buying power has risen by 16% over the past 30 years in the United States the percentage of people calling themselves "very happy" has fallen from 36% to 29%. We are therefore heading for trouble if we peg our happiness to the Dow Jones index.  Seeking happiness only by improving material conditions is like grinding sand in the hopes of extracting oil.

Unlike GNP the economic indicator that measures cash flow through and economy, GNH measures the happiness of the people as an indicator of development and progress. In order to improve the quality of life for its people, Bhutan has balanced cultural and environmental preservation with the development of industry and tourism. It is the only country in the world where hunting and fishing are banned through out the land. That is in happy contrast to the 2 million hunters in France. In addition, 60% of the land is required by Law to remain forested.

Bhutan is considered by some to be an under developed country, but underdeveloped from whose point of view? there is certain amount of poverty but no destitution or homelessness. Fewer than a million inhabitants live scattered across a sublime landscape three hundred miles in breadth.  Through out the countryside every family has land, livestock, and a weaving loom and can meet most of its needs. Education and health care are free. Morris strong, who helped Bhutan to become a member of United Nation use to say, " Bhutan can become like another country, but no other county can ever return to being like Bhutan".

You may ask dubiously whether these people are genuinely happy. Sit on a hill side and listen to the sounds of the valley. You will hear people signing as they sow seed, as they reap again, as they strolled down the road. "Spare me the pollyanna stories!" You protest. Pollyanna stories? no, just a reflection of the GNH index.

 

Disclaimer: This article was originally published on HappyHo and is republished here with permission.


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