Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Question of Indices: Gross National Happiness vs. Gross Domestic Product

Gross domestic product is the standard way of understanding a country's economy. In a GDP model, economic growth, income, consumer spending, and other factors of monetary value contribute to an overall picture of a country. Within each country, one then looks at such things as unemployment, equalization payments, feasibility of financial institutions, public debt, etc. In some ways, economic indicators, like GDP, have come to be the paradigm for understanding our world and the problems we face, and in turn shape the way policy is formed. But if the primary goal is economic growth and success in terms of dollars, something essential -- the well-being of people -- is put in second place.

Gross national happiness, on the other hand, is a set of indices based on non-monetary factors, and has been used as a measure of success by Bhutan, a small country in the Himalayas. Decision making based on GNH asks, will the proposed action add or relieve stress from peoples lives? Will the proposed decision contribute to or detract from local culture? Will the proposed action make our people happier or ultimately take away from their happiness? These are simple questions demanding simple answers, and they show that sometimes what is asked is more important than the data retrieved.

More info on Gross National Happiness and Bhutan

Speech from UN General Assembly 66 Session (Sept. 23, 2011) by Lyonchoen Jimi Yoezer Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan

Video: Bhutan: a Kingdom of Happiness

Video: Gross National Happiness - Bhutan

Gross National Happiness on Wikipedia

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How do you measure happiness?