Friday, November 7, 2008

Gross National Happiness

Bhutan has a new king. I heard on the Rachel Maddow show (love her, and yes, I am WAY too news obsessed these days. I am hoping that I will chill now that I know the nation is in safe hands again.) that the 28 year old has just been crowned. For those concerned about his age, experience, etc, he assured citizens that he will be continuing his father's policies and keeping a high priority on the gross national happiness.

You read that right. Gross national happiness.

Apparently in Bhutan, the health of the nation is not considered exclusively in economic terms. It matters as much to the government that the residents are spiritually and mentally healthy as they are materially sound.

Rachel made kind of a joke about it, but I think it may be the coolest thing ever. Can you imagine a country that considers itself poor if the people are unhappy? If they are not peaceful with one another? If they have needs (beyond material ones) that are not being met? What a sense of community they must have here. What momentum to feel that every person's actual happiness is of concern to the powers that be.

The scientist in me is dying to know how they measure it, and whether each person gets to define their own happiness. I can see many ways this could go wrong in real life, but the ideal is something to live up to.

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