Kingdom of Bhutan

BBC Bhutan country profile

Should Governments Try to Make Us Happy? The recently released 2013 UN World Happiness Report devotes a sizable section to Bhutan, attempting to quantify the happiness levels of the only country that prioritizes contentment over income.

The country’s 1729 legal code stated that, “if the Government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist.” In 1972, this sentiment was codified when Bhutan’s King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, instituted a “Gross National Happiness” as its official measure of progress, superseding the more traditional Gross National Product in importance. The country’s constitution directs the state “to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness.”

“We know that true abiding happiness cannot exist while others suffer, and comes only from serving others, living in harmony with nature, and realizing our innate wisdom and the true and brilliant nature of our own minds,” the prime minister said in 2008.

Gross national happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world Since 1971, the country has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress. In its place, it has championed a new approach to development, which measures prosperity through formal principles of gross national happiness (GNH) and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment.

For the past three decades, this belief that wellbeing should take preference over material growth has remained a global oddity. Now, in a world beset by collapsing financial systems, gross inequity and wide-scale environmental destruction, this tiny Buddhist state's approach is attracting a lot of interest.

The Way to Happiness Bhutan

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Colby Glass, MLIS, Professor Emeritus