Tuesday, November 22, 2011

About Gross National Happiness

Bhutan famously has a policy of "Gross National Happiness", meaning that they aim to maximize happiness instead of profit/GDP. How well does this work?

Well, right now, it's pretty good. Bhutan seems to be doing well. They have low (nonexistent) crime, 100% hydro power, low pollution, pretty good education I think. Tourism is pulling in some decent money, but it's not swallowing their culture. I asked a couple Bhutanese folks "what are the big problems you see facing Bhutan?" and they said "well, the roads are not very good."

But then, they only have 700,000 people. It's easy to avoid all the problems that come from too many people when you don't have too many people.

Some of the policies they've implemented are promising: the sustainable and clean hydro power, the cultural survival (folks still wear the national gho/kira clothing widely, buildings look good), the resistance of tobacco (sale is allowed but highly taxed, smoking in public is officially prohibited). Some of the policies seem immature: they don't have any slaughterhouses in the country, so they import their meat. It's on the way to sustainable vegetarianism, I guess, but it's kind of a weak philosophical dodge. And some of their problems are probably just hidden from me. I read Beyond the Sky and the Earth, in which the author describes her life in a rural Bhutanese village, and it's worlds away from Thimphu: tapeworm and giardia, clashes with ethnic Nepalese and widespread sexism.

So I guess (in my humble expert political opinion) I'd look at Bhutan the same way I'd look at a startup with a motto of "Don't be evil": it's untested and not guaranteed, but has as good a chance as any to succeed.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't even know Bhutan existed until you went there. Guess I'm a mama's boy.