Friday, July 22, 2011

Bhutan Suggests to UN How to Measure Happiness

Lhatu Wangchuk
Lhatu Wangchuk admits his vision of a "happiness indicator' is Utopian, but should be worked on

Is GDP as a measure of happiness or well being an ethnocentric notion based on Western capitalist ideals of material wealth and progress? From BBC UN correspondent, Barbara Plett, I learned that in the UN, Bhutan is introducing a different kind of  'happiness measure.' Bhutan is a small kingdom in the Himalayas (think Shangri-la!) situated between Nepal and China.  Seventy-five percent of the population of 709,000  are Lamaistic Buddhist and 25% are Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hindus.

The Bhutanese do not think that measuring GDP is an accurate way to measure well-being cross-culturally. Bhutan has lobbied the UN General Assembly to adopt 'happiness" as a development  indicator and now has the support of 66 nations including the UK. The Bhutanese use Gross National Happiness to define quality of life, seen as a balance between the material and the spiritual. According to Bhutan's ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk, "Our initial idea was to bring the concept of happiness to the consciousness of the UN membership… because we know that GDP indicators are inadequate to address human needs." He further qualifies "that wars and disputes do not indicate happiness or otherwise. They are caused by the egos and interests of leaders." Interesting perspective, I hope it takes hold: perhaps after academics have found a way to quantify the spiritual . . .  

For the full article from BBC news click  here.

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