Gross National Happiness

Gross National Happiness is a noble philosophy first thought by the fourth king of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk. It is different from GDP in that GDP focuses on consumerism and neglects many other important considerations like the environment and basic emotional aspects of human beings. GNH on other hand regards GDP as important but only as a means to achieve a higher-end, which is emotional well-being. It focuses on human happiness as the central theme to overall development. The concept is born from the Buddhist philosophy that human desire is endless and that happiness results from being content with what we have, however small or insignificant that may be.

Development Philosophy of Bhutan

Economists all over the world have argued that the key to happiness is obtaining and enjoying material development. Bhutan however, adheres to a very different belief and advocates that amassing material wealth does not necessarily lead to happiness. Bhutan is now trying to measure progress not by the popular idea of Gross Domestic Product but through Gross National Happiness.

While conventional development models stressed economic growth as the ultimate objective the concept of Gross National Happiness is 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.

While the emphasis is placed on both,.prosperity and happiness, the latter is considered to be more significant. Thus, Gross National Happiness is now being fleshed out by a wide range of professionals, scholars, and agencies across the world.

The philosophy of Gross National Happiness has recently received international ..recognition and the UN has implemented a resolution “recognizing that the gross domestic product does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people”, and that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”.

The Four Main Pillars of Gross National Happiness Are:
  • Equitable and Sustainable socio-economic development
  • Preservation and promotion of the cultural and spiritual heritage
  • Conservation of environment
  • Good governance

Gross National Happiness as a development paradigm.. has now made it possible for Bhutan to take its.. developmental policies into the remote corners of the.. kingdom and to meet the development needs of even its.. most isolated villagers, while still accentuating the need to protect and preserve our rich environment and forest cover. The policy of high-value, low-impact tourism has facilitated the promotion and preservation of our cultural values.

Furthermore, the concept of Gross National Happiness has greatly enabled the pursuit of development, while at the same time promoting the attainment of happiness as the core philosophy of life. For the government, it has facilitated the drive towards self-sufficiency and self-reliance, the ultimate reduction in the gap between the rich and the poor, and ensuring good governance and empowerment of her people as one of its key directives.

Following the international seminar on Operationalizing Gross National Happiness held in Bhutan in February 2004, the participants began working to establish a Gross International Happiness Network, indicating the influence of Gross National Happiness beyond the Bhutanese Borders.

These pillars embody national values, aesthetics, and spiritual traditions. The concept of Gross National Happiness is now being taken up by the United Nations and by various other countries.

Crucial to a better understanding of Gross National Happiness is its wider reach and awareness amongst other countries, and the various indices that have now been formulated to include material gains in their assessment of the country and lastly, the growing need to synthesize the moral with the cultural values as the core of economic policy.

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