Gross National Happiness

I heard the other day about Bhutan’s new (young) king being crowned, and how his 52-year old father (my age, how funny!) had abdicated the throne and put his son on it in order to aid the country’s transition to a new age.  The king emeritus (or whatever they call him, now) created the concept of Gross National Happiness as a way to measure his country’s progress in more humanistic terms — not just in terms of dollars.

While conventional development models (like GNP, or gross national product) stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH claims to be 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.
Bhutan is an oppressively poor country that has experienced oppressive government, as well.  To the old king’s credit, in addition to establishing GNH as his country’s success indicator, he is also pushing the country toward democracy — he established a parliament and gave up much of his power and converted his role to that of a constitutional monarch.  While instituting some brutal actions against foreigners in the country, and imposing strict (and often arbitrary) rules on things like dress code… he’s also pushed through societal reforms that have, over the past few decades, increased life expectancy by 20 years.  TWENTY YEARS!
How’s that for the power of Happiness?!
A colleague (thank you, Barbara Ropog, of The Tangram Edge) sent me several interesting links to more information on GNH
Article from the Taipei Times on the new king’s coronations ceremonies, demonstrating how much the younger generation will change that country:Bhutan’s new king aims for Happiness
More on the worldwide discussion of Gross National Happiness:
and a wonderful article on some of the advances this poor, landlocked country has made over the past 20 years, since the GNH entered the discussion:
I’m thinking, Wow, how great would it be if our new American president and leaders put four Pillars of GNH near the top of America’s agenda?  Perhaps “…the pursuit of happiness” language in our Declaration of Independence would become more real than ever!

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