Posts Tagged ‘Gross National Happiness’

Bhutan – The Conscience of Gross National Happiness

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

[...] It’s a country of people who believe in Gross National Happiness rather than Gross National Product. They understand that acquiring “stuff” does not make one happy. In general, they take pleasure in the simple things in life and appreciate their family and community.

Some of this is changing, however. The one “highway” is now being repaved and drivers are zooming around more quickly. More hotels are opening up to accommodate an expected influx of tourists.

Since it’s introduction to the country about 10 years ago, television has become popular (particularly Indian soap operas in Hindi) and cell phones are cropping up throughout the country.

Regardless of this “progress”, their laughter and good nature are infectious.

The one group of Bhutanese that we had the most interaction with were the children. Rarely shy to come say “hello”, we found them to be quite engaging and interested in us. One group of boys walked with us through a town singing songs at the tops of their little lungs.

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Why Conservatives Say They Are Happier Than Liberals

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

What’s the key to happiness? Liberals might tell you a hot latte, vivid expressions of diversity, and a copy of the New York Times. That doesn’t sound too bad, but in data mined for his new book, Gross National Happiness, Arthur Brooks, a professor of business and government at Syracuse University, finds that conservatives are twice as likely as liberals to say they’re happy. That’s not necessarily because of their politics but because they are statistically more likely to be married, go to church, and be optimistic about their future—boosting personal happiness. For liberals, the rates are lower. The author suggests that while the liberal equity agenda may be honorable, it exacts a personal toll. Indeed, happiness is full of surprises: Political ideologues are positively joyful—by making others miserable. Brooks explains to U.S. News the quirks and politics of happiness.

Why are liberals so bummed out?
Liberals are more likely to feel like victims and feel that collective action is the best way to make things happen. That may be right, but it’s a frustrating way to live. The Democratic Party is a coalition of oppressed groups. These are legitimate grievances in a lot of cases, but that does not make for a happy party.

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The politics of happiness

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Last week I posted on the happiness difference between conservatives and liberals. Non-partisan survey data clearly show a large, persistent “happiness gap” favoring the political right.

Lots of readers weighed in, offering explanations for these data patterns. Here were their most frequent explanations:

1. Conservatives and liberals have different lifestyles, particularly regarding religion and marriage, which explains why conservatives are happier.

2. Conservatives have a world-view that — right or wrong — lends itself to greater happiness.

3. Brooks is an untrustworthy fool.

While #3 might be meritorious, let’s leave it aside and just focus on explanation #1 here and #2 in the next post.

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Happiness and Progress: Measuring Human Wellbeing in Bhutan and Canada

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

“Happiness is inward, and not outward; and so, it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are.” So intoned American man of letters Henry Van Dyke. A noble vision of a less materialistic world, some might say — but is it something that can be quantified?

As a matter of fact, people in the rugged and remote Asian country of Bhutan are busy trying to “operationalize” a notion of true happiness that sounds a lot like Van Dyke’s dream.

In modern times, human prosperity and wellbeing have been measured by blunt economic standards, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), that are essentially gauges of economic activity. More often than not, however, these indicators fail to take account of whether that activity is good or bad. Perversely, a rise in crime rates may come across as an economic benefit because it stimulates economic activity: more crime leads to the building of more prisons, the hiring of more police, and so on. By the same dispassionate logic, natural disasters could also be seen as contributing to the economy, for example if they created a repair and reconstruction boom. It all depends on what you choose to count.

The alternative approach draws upon a broader set of social, environmental, and health indicators aimed at more accurately representing the real condition of society.

In Bhutan, this comprehensive indicator is charmingly known as Gross National Happiness (GNH)…

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