Gross National Happiness

More than redefining the development paradigm, Gross National Happiness questions the sustainability of the popular conventional capitalistic approach to economic development and growth. It is a humane pursuit of wellbeing without compromising required economic essentials. Many home-grown scholars of Gross National Happiness believe that it is an effort that seeks to strike a fine balance between materialism and spiritualism. It tries to show the path to the big utopian goal.

gross national happinessThe development philosophy of Gross National Happiness does not prescribe a concrete economic model, nor does it object the existing principles of economics. Instead, it identifies the urgency to straighten the fallouts in the way human well being is sought through reckless accumulation of wealth and condemns economic and human activities that have potential to fracture societal values and norms.

Gross National Happiness was conceptualized by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan in the 1970s. Since then scholars from around the world have been trying to examine the concept from their own perspectives. While the literature on Gross National Happiness has been growing, the way it is understood has seen multiple dimensions.

However, at home, the basic premise used to understand the philosophy is very much underpinned in the statement its propounder made: Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than Gross National Product (GDP).

The essence and depth of Gross National Happiness revolves around its four official pillars: sustainable economic development, promotion of culture, protection of environment, and good governance.

The philosophy does not say that economic development is not important. It however underscores that any development must contribute to the betterment of human society. It is about assigning a purpose and value in economic activities people undertake. And that material wealth measured in absolute figure is not an all-encompassing indicator to define human wellbeing.

This could loosely be explained that components of social wealth like family values, community harmony, and clean environment contribute more to human happiness than a huge bank balance.

Gross National Happiness attempts to provoke economic and development pundits, polity and leadership, and members of human civilization to reassess the ever-increasing mad-rush spirit of wealth gathering in the name of development. The development philosophy is no more sophisticated than its emphasis on ensuring that maximum Bhutanese are happy by achieving a fine balance between material and spiritual wealth.