Gross National Happiness

I heard on the radio this morning that the King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, is promoting GNH (Gross National Happiness) as that country’s key indicator of progress. (Heck, just try saying Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s name out loud without becoming a little bit happier.) This AFP story reports that a World Bank official subsequently said that more countries should follow that lead.

GNH is a variation on a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) that I’ve argued for previously in some detail, and is an attempt to address the problem of our current worship utilization of the GDP as if it was an indicator of increased quality of life, which, after a certain point, it isn’t. Even one of the initial architects of the GDP warned against its use in that way. Just because the overall size of the economy has increased doesn’t mean we’re better off or getting more out of life.

Instead, a GPI takes into account all the things we value as a society—volunteerism, health, peace, meaningful employment, equal opportunity, economic strength, and yes, happiness—and quantifies them so that we can have an accurate measure of if we’re headed in the right direction or not. Implementing a national GPI would be one of the smartest things our government could do to help us all start to understand not only what’s good about what we’ve got, but how much better things could be.

Further Reading:
Reporting Back: Green Party of Canada Policy Conference, Halifax
Dr. Ron Colman – “A Sobering Place to Begin”
Dr. Peter Victor – Managing Without Growth
Our Economic Pyramid Scheme

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