Gross National Happiness

gnhBhutan has inspired many scholars, critics, philosophers, politicians, and academics around the world by developing a unique development philosophy, Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH places the happiness and prosperity of each citizen before economic wealth. The central idea of GNH was developed by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. This philosophy is based on the premise that true development occurs when material and spiritual development complement each other and take care of both the physical and mental well-being of an individual. His Majesty the Fourth King stressed that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product, as wealth does not necessarily bring happiness to people. For a holistic development of an individual and society, there needs to be harmony between material prosperity, cultural and spiritual values, environmental consciousness, and good governance. These different dimensions of life are known as the four pillars of GNH. These four pillars are balanced and equitable socio-economic development; preservation and promotion of culture; preservation and sustainable use of environment; and good governance.
In 2004, the King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, clearly expressed that while the philosophy of GNH is inherently Bhutanese, its ideas have positive relevance to any nation, community or people.
In his words, “I feel that there must be some convergence among nations on the idea of what the primary objective of development and progress should be – something that GNH seeks to bring about.” And he added, “There cannot be enduring peace, prosperity, equality and brotherhood in this world if our aims are so separate and divergent especially as the world shrinks to a global village.”
The concept of GNH as a development philosophy has evolved into a national consciousness, and it is a bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality, and humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth such that it helps the nation in making better and wiser decisions for the wellbeing and happiness of all Bhutanese.
The idea of happiness and wellbeing as the goal of development has always been part of the Bhutanese political psyche. To achieve this Bhutan has developed a number of policies to create social, environmental, cultural, and political conditions conducive to the achievement of happiness.
For example, Article 9 of Bhutan’s constitution says that “The State shall strive to promote those circumstances that will enable the successful pursuit of Gross National Happiness.” All state policies are obliged to be in consonance with the grand statement the constitution makes.
In fact, the Bhutanese state has always taken on the responsibility of happiness for the people. Bhutan’s 1729 legal code stated that “if the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government to exist. It’s in line with GNH philosophy that the constitution of Bhutan declares 60 percent of total land area should remain forested for all time.
Today it is mandatory that all public policies and laws pass through GNH screening.
In the words of His Majesty the King, “Today GNH has come to mean so many things to so many people, but to me it signifies simply – development with values. Thus for my nation today GNH is the bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth. GNH acts as our National Conscience guiding us towards making wise decisions for a better future.”