Monday, October 10, 2005

Gross National Happiness

From a link at BoingBoing, I was directed to an absolutely astounding concept being implemented by the government of Bhutan. The Bhutan government, led by their king, is trying to get a measure of his subjects' happiness. From the article:
"We have to think of human well-being in broader terms," said Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley, Bhutan's home minister and ex-prime minister. "Material well-being is only one component. That doesn't ensure that you're at peace with your environment and in harmony with each other."
I was reminded of it when I wrote previously about society having to provide its members with the means for happiness.

Optimally, not only would this shift a government's goals, but it would also provide a way for the people of the world to determine where they might be better off. It would facilitate a free market of world government. As the article says, focusing only on money is a narrow view indeed.


lem said...

I didn't read the article because I'm a lazy bum (or I just have work to do), but wouldn't this require some sort of enlightenment on the part of the people? Because I'm sure there are lots of people that would consider themselves "happy" if they had lots of money. I'm not one of those people, but I see it like communism. It doesn't really work unless everyone goes along with it and does their share.

Gabe said...

Haha, yeah, who knows if it'll work? In the article, it says that various governments (including our very own USA) have tried to measure with varying degrees of success. But where the US (apparently) failed, Bhutan might have some success, because they're still a developing nation and many of its citizens haven't quite been swayed by the dark side of capitalism (or so I believe). So I'm not sure if it would require enlightment on the part of the people so much as ignorance/naivety. And if it takes hold and succeeds, perhaps enlightenment will follow.

To a rather large degree, money might be a really good indicator anyway. It was meant to quantify the value people place on things, including time. Theoretically, people should be able to, by themselves, establish an equilibrium between time and money commensurate to their goals in happiness.

But I think one of the good points of using GNH to measure is that it's not just for governments. If Bhutan et al. succeed in implementing it, I think it would necessarily follow that people's view of living in any particular country will change. I mean, is it really that great living in America? (not rhetorical) If they actually come up with a decent measuring system, we can now find out.

The point is, I don't think the people have to do a thing. They'll go on doing whatever it is they do. All the numbers will tell the people is how happy they should be. It'd be up to the government to change anything in response to the numbers. I think the quote was "Lies, damn lies, and statistics." Numbers are used to influence perceptions probably just as much as they are used to tell people anything objective. And GNH has the potential to be such a statistic.