Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Why Bhutan Measures Gross National Happiness

Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest)

Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom, does not use Gross Domestic Product as the governance target. Instead it pursues Gross National Happiness. It also bans tobacco which is said to increase said joy at merely being alive.

It’s possible to wonder why they change the target that so many others find useful. The argument put forward is that there are things more important than mere economic success, rampant consumerism and all that. Which is true, there are.

It’s possible to take a slightly different view.

One is to think of compensations. For example – I’ve no idea whether it’s true or not – it’s commonly said that the loss of one sense makes others sharper. The blind have better hearing perhaps.

Another is to think that people just don’t desire to be measured by the things that they’re bad at. So, therefore, a place with a low GDP will ask to be measured by some other yardstick.

The truth is probably politesse. As with:

“She’s a model you know”


“Yes, for British Leyland.”

“Ah, a lovely personality then I take it?”

So too with measuring the economic success of Himalayan kingdoms.

“They’re dirt poor you know”

“Well, $3k and climbing isn’t that, that, bad you know. Better than England in 1700.”


“But they’re terribly happy all the same.”

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3 years ago

This is as big a corruption of “measurement” as Richard Murphy’s assertions that economic activity toward goals he doesn’t favor should not be counted.

PS – Letting burly cross-dressers into girls’ sports will also “increase joy,” as will persecuting extremists who wanted to Make America Great Again.

3 years ago

Gross national happiness is preferable to GDP as a target. However it is not something that can be reliably measured.

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
3 years ago
Reply to  john77

The Finns have been so thoroughly indoctrinated that they are the world’s happiest nation that they actually believe it. It seems that complaining about the endless winters, omnipresent mosquitoes, difficulty in getting to see the doctor and the absurd taxes on liquor are in fact signs of indefatigable optimism.

My brother is the spiritual kind. He visits Bhutan every couple of years and reports how friendly the people are. “As a friend can you help me to get the hell out of this place?” being a typical conversation with a just-met Bhutanese.

3 years ago
Reply to  john77

Very true. Different studies have shown completely different countries are the happiest as in the world – which is really really inaccurate.
This is a very good article on it

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