Gross national happiness

Gross national happiness

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Gross national happiness'
Start a new discussion about 'Gross national happiness'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The assessment of gross national happiness (GNH; Dzongkha: རྒྱལ་ཡོངས་དགའ་སྐྱིད་དཔལ་འཛོམས་; Wylie
Wylie transliteration
The Wylie transliteration scheme is a method for transliterating Tibetan script using only the letters available on a typical English language typewriter. It bears the name of Turrell V. Wylie, who described the scheme in an article, A Standard System of Tibetan Transcription, published in 1959...

: rgyal-yongs dga'a-skyid dpal-'dzoms) was designed in an attempt to define an indicator that measures quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

 or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than only the economic indicator of gross domestic product
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

 (GDP).

Origins and meaning


The term "gross national happiness" was coined in 1972 by Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

's then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Jigme Singye Wangchuck is the former King of Bhutan. He was the fourth Dragon King of Bhutan from 1972 until his abdication in favour of his eldest son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, in 2006...

, who has opened Bhutan
Bhutan
Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

 to the age of modernization, soon after the demise of his father, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He used the phrase to signal his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan's unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. At first offered as a casual, offhand remark, the concept was taken seriously, as the Centre for Bhutan Studies
Centre for Bhutan Studies
The Centre for Bhutan Studies is a research institute located in Thimphu, Bhutan established in 1999 with the purpose of promoting research and scholarship on Bhutan.The President of the Centre is Dasho Karma Ura.-Periodical:...

, under the leadership of Karma Ura, developed a sophisticated survey instrument to measure the population's general level of well-being. The Canadian health epidemiologist Michael Pennock had a major role in the design of the instrument, and uses (what he calls) a "de-Bhutanized" version of the survey in his work in Victoria, British Columbia. Ura and Pennock have also collaborated on the development of policy screening tools which can be used to examine the potential impacts of projects or programs on GNH.

Like many psychological and social indicators, GNH is somewhat easier to state than to define with mathematical precision. Nonetheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan's five-year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country. Proposed policies in Bhutan must pass a GNH review based on a GNH impact statement that is similar in nature to the Environmental Impact Statement
Environmental impact statement
An environmental impact statement , under United States environmental law, is a document required by the National Environmental Policy Act for certain actions "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment". An EIS is a tool for decision making...

 required for development in the U.S.

The Bhutanese grounding in Buddhist ideals suggests that beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual
Spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of sustainable development
Sustainable development
Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use, that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come...

, preservation and promotion of cultural values
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, conservation of the natural environment
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

, and establishment of good governance
Good governance
Good governance is an indeterminate term used in development literature to describe how public institutions conduct public affairs and manage public resources in order to guarantee the realization of human rights. Governance describes "the process of decision-making and the process by which...

. At this level of generality, the concept of GNH is transcultural—a nation need not be Buddhist in order to value sustainable development, cultural integrity, ecosystem conservation, and good governance. Through collaboration with an international group of scholars and empirical researchers the Centre for Bhutan Studies further defined these four pillars with greater specificity into eight general contributors to happiness- physical, mental and spiritual health; time-balance; social and community vitality; cultural vitality; education; living standards; good governance; and ecological vitality. Although the GNH framework reflects its Buddhist origins, it is solidly based upon the empirical research literature of happiness, positive psychology and wellbeing.

Qualitative and quantitative indicators



There is no exact quantitative definition of GNH, but elements that contribute to GNH are subject to quantitative measurement. Low rates of infant mortality, for instance, correlate positively with subjective expressions of well-being or happiness within a country. (This makes sense; it is no large leap to assume that premature death causes sorrow.) The practice of social science has long been directed toward transforming subjective expression of large numbers of people into meaningful quantitative data; there is no major difference between asking people "how confident are you in the economy?" and "how satisfied are you with your job?"

GNH, like the Genuine Progress Indicator
Genuine Progress Indicator
The genuine progress indicator is an alternative metric system which is an addition to the national system of accounts that has been suggested to replace, or supplement, gross domestic product as a metric of economic growth...

, refers to the concept of a quantitative measurement of well-being and happiness
Happiness
Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources....

. The two measures are both motivated by the notion that subjective measures like well-being are more relevant and important than more objective measures like consumption
Consumption (economics)
Consumption is a common concept in economics, and gives rise to derived concepts such as consumer debt. Generally, consumption is defined in part by comparison to production. But the precise definition can vary because different schools of economists define production quite differently...

. It is not measured directly, but only the factors which are believed to lead to it.

According to Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist and Nobel laureate. He is notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology....

, a Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 psychologist
Psychologist
Psychologist is a professional or academic title used by individuals who are either:* Clinical professionals who work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts .* Scientists conducting psychological research or teaching psychology in a college...

, happiness can be measured using the day reconstruction method, which consists in recollecting memories of the previous working day by writing a short diary.

A second-generation GNH concept, treating happiness as a socioeconomic development metric, was proposed in 2006 by Med Jones, the President of International Institute of Management. The metric measures socioeconomic development by tracking seven development areas including the nation's mental and emotional health. GNH value is proposed to be an index function of the total average per capita of the following measures:
  1. Economic Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of economic metrics such as consumer debt, average income to consumer price index ratio and income distribution
  2. Environmental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics such as pollution, noise and traffic
  3. Physical Wellness: Indicated via statistical measurement of physical health metrics such as severe illnesses
  4. Mental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of mental health metrics such as usage of antidepressants and rise or decline of psychotherapy patients
  5. Workplace Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of labor metrics such as jobless claims
    Jobless claims
    Initial Jobless Claims is a report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor on a weekly basis. The employment situation is extremely important for a macroeconomic analysis, so the financial markets track employment indicators, although this is a low impact indicator compared with the monthly BLS's...

    , job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits
  6. Social Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of social metrics such as discrimination, safety, divorce rates, complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits, public lawsuits, crime rates
  7. Political Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of political metrics such as the quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts.


The above seven metrics were incorporated into the first Global GNH Survey.

Ed Diener, a psychologist from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a large public research-intensive university in the state of Illinois, United States. It is the flagship campus of the University of Illinois system...

, has developed a scale referred to as subjective well-being, a concept related to happiness and quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

, which has been used to compare nations to each other on this construct. This study found that "high income, individualism, human rights, and social equality correlated strongly with each other, and with SWB" (p. 851, abstract).

Adam Kramer, a psychologist from the University of Oregon
University of Oregon
-Colleges and schools:The University of Oregon is organized into eight schools and colleges—six professional schools and colleges, an Arts and Sciences College and an Honors College.- School of Architecture and Allied Arts :...

, has developed a behavioral model of "Gross National Happiness" based on the use of positive and negative words in social network status updates, resulting in a quantitative GNH metric.

Conferences


In 2009, the 5th International Conference was held at Foz do Iguaçu
Foz do Iguaçu
Foz do Iguaçu is the 7th largest city in Paraná state, Brazil, with a population of 255,900 inhabitants. It is located approximately 650 km west of Curitiba, Parana's capital city, being the westernmost city in that state...

, Brazil, with more than 800 participants. The conference was organised by Future Vision Ecological Institute and Itaipu Bi-national Hydroelectric Facility, in collaboration with the Centre for Bhutan Studies. The growing interest in GNH within Brazil has resulted from the work of Dr. Susan Andrews at the Instituto Visão Futuro which sponsored a series of events in São Paulo and Campinas in October 2008. Speakers included Karma Ura from Bhutan and Michael Pennock from Canada.

The 4th International Conference on Gross National Happiness was held in Bhutan with a focus on Practice and Measurement. Results of the Bhutanese survey were presented and a number of international contributors discussed different approaches and challenges to the measurement and application of the GNH framework.

The 3rd International Conference on Gross National Happiness Towards Global Transformation: World Views Make a Difference offered an opportunity to articulate Asian world views towards transformation in a "message to the world." It took place in Nong Khai and Bangkok, Thailand between 22 and 28 November 2007.

Implying the transition from a natural to modernized state, the 3rd International Conference on Gross National Happiness (GNH 3) took place in two locations: the first three days took place in rural north-eastern province of Nong Khai and the last three days in the urban campus of Chulalongkorn University in central Bangkok, Thailand. The organizers planned all activities so that participants were able to explore a large variety of venues, presentation and discussion formats and draw on the great variety and talents of the entire group of 800 participants who registered.

Main co-organizers were the Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation (Thailand), Centre for Bhutan Studies
Centre for Bhutan Studies
The Centre for Bhutan Studies is a research institute located in Thimphu, Bhutan established in 1999 with the purpose of promoting research and scholarship on Bhutan.The President of the Centre is Dasho Karma Ura.-Periodical:...

, while local NGOs, progressive business group Social Venture Network
Social Venture Network
The Social Venture Network is a network of socially responsible business leaders committed to building a just and sustainable world through socially and environmentally sustainable business. As of 2007, SVN has over 430 members in the United States....

 and the government of Thailand in particular The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Thailand, have formed a support network together with research agencies and other government departments like the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.

"Rethinking Development: Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing," the Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness was held in Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Antigonish is a Canadian town in Antigonish County, Nova Scotia. The town is home to St. Francis Xavier University and the oldest continuous highland games in North America.-History:...

 June 20–24, 2005, co-hosted by Genuine Progress Index Atlantic (proceedings online); the Coady International Institute; Shambhala
Shambhala
In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Shambhala or Shangri-la is a mythical kingdom hidden somewhere in Inner Asia...

; the Centre for Bhutan Studies
Centre for Bhutan Studies
The Centre for Bhutan Studies is a research institute located in Thimphu, Bhutan established in 1999 with the purpose of promoting research and scholarship on Bhutan.The President of the Centre is Dasho Karma Ura.-Periodical:...

; the Province of Nova Scotia; the Gorsebrook Research Institute at Saint Mary's University; and the University of New Brunswick
University of New Brunswick
The University of New Brunswick is a Canadian university located in the province of New Brunswick. UNB is the oldest English language university in Canada and among the first public universities in North America. The university has two main campuses: the original campus founded in 1785 in...

.

The second regional Conference took place November 8–11, 2006 at Meiji Gakuin University
Meiji Gakuin University
is one of the Christian universities in Tokyo and Yokohama which was established in 1863. The Reverend Dr. James Curtis Hepburn was one of the founders and the first president...

 in Yokohama. The conference examined Haida successes to apply non western economic and social modalities.

External studies


In a widely cited study, "A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge to Positive Psychology?" by Adrian G. White of the University of Leicester
University of Leicester
The University of Leicester is a research-led university based in Leicester, England. The main campus is a mile south of the city centre, adjacent to Victoria Park and Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College....

 in 2007, Bhutan ranked eighth out of 178 countries in Subjective Well-Being, a metric that has been used by many psychologists since 1997. In fact, it is the only country in the top 20 "happiest" countries that has a very low GDP.

National happiness is also sometimes classified under empirically studied "National Happyism," and psychologists, Drs. Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, have researched and analyzed what could be described as technological elements and characteristics of happiness for both individuals and societies.

Criticism


Critics state that because GNH depends on a series of subjective
Subjectivity
Subjectivity refers to the subject and his or her perspective, feelings, beliefs, and desires. In philosophy, the term is usually contrasted with objectivity.-Qualia:...

 judgments about well-being, governments may be able to define GNH in a way that suits their interests. Critics say that international comparison of well-being will be difficult on this model; proponents maintain that each country can define its own measure of GNH as it chooses, and that comparisons over time between nations will have validity. GDP provides a convenient, international scale. Research demonstrates that markers of social and individual well-being are remarkably transcultural: people generally report greater subjective life satisfaction if they have strong and frequent social ties, live in healthy ecosystems, experience good governance, etc. Nevertheless, it remains true that reliance on national measures of GNH would render international comparisons of relative well-being more problematic, since there is not and is not likely ever to be a common scale as "portable" as GDP has been. Nevertheless, Bhutan's stated goal is to maximize whatever they see as GNH, not compare numbers with other countries.

Alternative indicators of emotion as an analog to economic progress have also been supported by a number of NGOs
Non-governmental organization
A non-governmental organization is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term originated from the United Nations , and is normally used to refer to organizations that do not form part of the government and are...

 such as the UK's New Economics Foundation
New Economics Foundation
The New Economics Foundation is a British think-tank.NEF was founded in 1986 by the leaders of The Other Economic Summit with the aim of working for a "new model of wealth creation, based on equality, diversity and economic stability"....

, and are employed in some governments notably in Europe and Canada. The Gallup poll system also collects data on wellbeing on a national and international scale.

See also

  • Global Peace Index
    Global Peace Index
    The Global Peace Index is an attempt to measure the relative position of nations' and regions' peacefulness. It is the product of Institute for Economics and Peace and developed in consultation with an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks with data collected...

  • Happiness economics
    Happiness economics
    Happiness economics is the quantitative study of happiness, positive and negative affect, well-being, quality of life, life satisfaction and related concepts, typically combining economics with other fields such as psychology and sociology. It typically treats such happiness-related measures,...

  • Legatum Prosperity Index
    Legatum Prosperity Index
    The Legatum Prosperity Index is an annual ranking developed by the Legatum Institute of 110 countries. The ranking is based according to a variety of factors including wealth, economic growth, personal wellbeing, and quality of life. Norway topped the lists of the the last two reports, those of...

  • Philosophy of happiness
    Philosophy of happiness
    The philosophy of happiness is a direction by which philosophical inquiry approaches the nature of happiness and the ways by which to attain it...

  • Post-materialism
    Post-materialism
    The concept of post-materialism is a tool in developing an understanding of modern culture. It can be considered in reference of three distinct concepts of materialism...

  • Psychometrics
    Psychometrics
    Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational measurement...

  • Satisfaction with Life Index
    Satisfaction with Life Index
    The Satisfaction with Life Index was created by Adrian G. White, an Analytic Social Psychologist at the University of Leicester, using data from a metastudy. It is an attempt to show life satisfaction in different nations....

  • Utilitarianism
    Utilitarianism
    Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...

  • World Values Survey
    World Values Survey
    The World Values Survey is a global research project that explores people’s values and beliefs, how they change over time and what social and political impact they have. It is carried out by a worldwide network of social scientists who, since 1981, have conducted representative national surveys in...

  • Gross National Cool

External links