Saturday, March 7, 2009

Gross National Happiness

I am reading a book about Baltistan (in the Himalayan region of Pakistan) that is helping me get over my "we're doomed!!!" phase. Everyone there is poor, basically just clinging to the side of a high mountain, but what they value most is literacy. I don't see why we won't maintain literacy after the crash. It was also in the Himalayas, in the tiny country of Bhutan, that the king decided that there needed to be a new way to define prosperity, that would measure actual well being rather than consumption. He called this measure "Gross National Happiness". An important point was that there should be an infusion of moral and cultural values into the core of the economic policy, something that has been clearly lacking in the US. In using instead the "Gross National Product" to define prosperity, we have clearly been following strategies that have left people with more material possessions, but less psychological well-being. In the New Economics Foundation (NEF) study of 2006 of world happiness the USA ranked at the 150th place.
In a white paper on Gross National Happiness, Med Yones of the International Institute of Management suggests that the role of government should shift from managing economic growth to socioeconomic development.
"American public policy should shift its focus from:

  • The standard of living to the quality of life
  • Material possessions to well-being (physical, mental, and material)
  • Unsustainable economic development to sustainable environmental development
  • Consumerism to investment
  • Economic-driven education to socioeconomic-driven education

  • Government can also make substantial improvements by implementing the following recommendations:

  • Simplify people’s lives through reformed civil laws and taxes.
  • Establish new tax and budget policies in line with public mental, emotional and physical wellness goals. For example, provide funding for the promotion of positive psychology and cultural education in schools, workplaces and public media.
  • Shift policy priority from waging wars - a major source of socioeconomic stress and long-term liability - to local socioeconomic development and foreign collaboration."

  • So, as the flawed economies of mainstream western development model, based on capitalism and free-market enterprise, plunge over Himalayan scale cliffs, it could be just the opportunity we need to reconstruct our economy on a much improved model that is based on principles of life and well being.


    Anonymous said...

    what a fabulous article! I do think simpler lives are happier lives. We have to do so much paper work and pay so many fees and taxes just to go about our lives. I believe in taxes, but they should be simpler and better spent. I am sitting waiting for my car to be inspected and that's the kind of thing would do away with to improve GNH. Driving a safe car is its own reward, you don't need to legislate it. -Lynnis

    Innes said...

    here's some photos from baltistan:

    as a blogger who mostly speaks in photos, i appreciate when people illustrate their blog entries for us visual learners (hint, hint)


    Lona said...

    Picture added from Innes' site of beautiful Baltistan photos.

    Innes said...

    thanks! :-)

    Anonymous said...

    What was the name of the book? Matt

    Lona said...

    The book is called "Three Cups of Tea". I own it so let me know if anyone wants to borrow it.