by Don Mallet
The little country of Bhutan, nestled between India and China, is the world’s only “democratic monarchy”. This experiment, originated by the current king Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972, means that if the “Gross National Happiness” with the king drops below 50%, the Bhutanese will vote and elect a new king. There has not been a vote yet.
GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS (GNH), also originating in Bhutan, is an attempt to gauge the success of the nation on its intangible and holistic quality of life, rather than on its productivity as measured by its Gross National Product or Gross Domestic Product. It is based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance. This is often discussed in tandem with the Genuine Progress Indicator of the green movement.
The “happiness” factor could be used to gauge such things as citizen reaction to growth, development, and social issues such as crime, immigration, emergency measures and epidemics, and could even offer a new mechanism to evaluate physical and mental health care. If one goes to a hospital or a care home, one’s happiness will influence one’s recovery and general health. The population could decide that “alternate” medicine is less costly, and/or as effective, and therefore makes the user more “happy” within such a system.
Some critics of GNH point to expulsion of the “illegal Nepalese immigrants” as an example of how GNH can be misused. Although this expulsion reduced Bhutan’s wealth by most traditional measures such as GDP, the Bhutan government claims it has not reduced Bhutan’s GNH. Read more »