Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happiness: yer doin' it wrong!

At least if you're running Bhutan you are. The impoverished Himalayan nation's king has been promoting the importance of Gross National Happiness as a goal of the nation. So far the only concrete policy steps taken to raise it are (1) a smoking ban, (2) a dress code, and (3) setting limits of how much of the country can be developed.

But now the king wants to take it to the next level. How? Well he's appointed a "happiness commissioner" and the country is being surveyed about their level of happiness with an instrument "comprised of nearly 300 questions" that "take(s) several hours to complete."

Aaargh!! I'm from the government and I'm here to help you!! Run!!!

Here's some excerpts from the WSJ article linked above:

Developed in the 1980s by Bhutan's fourth king, Gross National Happiness, or GNH, is a Bhutanese twist on Gross Domestic Product. Up till now, it has not represented an actual dollar figure, but rather, a fuzzy set of principles on the environment and culture. It has produced unique policies, such as a smoking ban, strict limits on deforestation and a dress code....
its leaders want to prove that they can achieve economic growth while maintaining good governance, protecting the environment and preserving an ancient culture. To do that, they've decided to start calculating GNH. It means coming up with an actual happiness index that can be tracked over time.

"We are in the midst of great changes," Mr. Tshiteem says in an interview. The Happiness commissioner wears a red checkered Bhutanese robe, called a gho, and munches on betel nut as he looks ahead to his country's collision with the modern world. "If we are going to manage this change, we have to be able to measure it," he says.

Being right next to India, Mr. Tshiteem has developed negative views toward industries that could help soak up Bhutan's young, unskilled workers and fuel growth. On outsourcing, he says: "Stay up all night, sleep all day, I wouldn't want to see my kids in a job like that."

And on fast food and McDonald's, he wonders whether possible health problems and the impact on Bhutan's culture would outweigh the benefits of job creation and potentially higher prices for farmers. "Maybe," ventures the Happiness commissioner, "Bhutan can be a small island, free from the golden arches."

OUCH! Dude, that hurt.


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Bradly Jones said...

Great posts on this blog. I'm on my way to Dhaka and will be needing all the information i can get because I will be staying shortly in Bhutan, I need to be able to gather knowledge as well as pictures, I adore Buddhism as well. Thanks for sharing. Your article was a real brain massage.

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