Editor's Note: Stewart Patrick is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the author of Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security.
By Stewart Patrick, CFR.org
At first glance, this Monday’s high-level event in the U.N. General Assembly would appear to confirm the worst suspicions of U.N. skeptics. Given all the crises engulfing the globe, what geniuses in New York decided to have the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan host a daylong special session on “Happiness.”What the heck is going on in Turtle Bay? More than meets the eye, in fact. One of the hottest fields in development economics has been, believe it or not, happiness research. And it turns out that the government in Thimpu may have something wise to say on the subject.
In recent years, a small but influential group of economists has concluded that traditional measurements of national progress, typically couched in terms of per capita Gross National Product (GNP), don’t actually tell us much about the wellbeing of citizens. This is partly a critique of modernization theory, which suggests that human welfare advances in lockstep with material enrichment.
In fact, as pioneering researchers like Carol Graham of the Brookings Institution and the University of Maryland have shown, there’s little correlation between national income and contentment. Some of the highest levels of happiness have been recorded in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for example.
This comes as no news to the Bhutanese. Although one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita income the World Bank estimates at $670, Bhutan is also, according to Business Week, the happiest country in Asia and the eighth happiest in the world. Some forty years ago, the grandfather of the current constitutional monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel, began popularizing the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) to replace GNP as a gauge of national progress. Improbably, the concept has taken off.
Over the past decade, the 800,000-person kingdom has become a Mecca - or rather Shangri-la - for Western policymakers and development experts seeking enlightenment on the secrets of national happiness in an age of globalization. Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureates both, are converts. So too is Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and tireless campaigner for the Millennium Development Goals. On August 10-12 of last year, Sachs traveled to Thimpu to co-host with Prime Minister Jigme Thinley the Bhutan Conference on Happiness and Economic Development.
Two weeks later, Bhutan hit the big-time, when the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 65/309 (PDF) titled, “Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development.” Endorsing the monarchy’s basic point, the resolution conceded: “the gross domestic product indicator by nature was not designed to and does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being in a country.” More pointedly, it implied that public policies in many countries have encouraged “unsustainable patterns of production and consumption,” at the expense of “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being of peoples.”
Monday’s high-Level meeting on “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” raises the GNH concept to new heights. Prince Charles will address the event with a pre-recorded message, and both Sachs and Stiglitz will speak, alongside national and international dignitaries, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The conversation will likely recapitulate themes from last year’s conference, which called on governments to integrate a “happiness agenda” into public policy. Some proposed steps seem sensible, such as reducing extreme suffering and deprivation, focusing on education, empowering local communities, protecting ecological systems, and investing in mental health.
But other proposals could prove more controversial, for instance building “awareness and avoidance of pure status goods,” to say nothing of “controlling the media in a way that doesn’t limit freedom but restrains the creation of artificial cravings.” Such aspirations could lend themselves to caricature, as blatant assaults on the free market by misguided social engineers seeking to escape modernity.
The champions of GNH have tried to inoculate themselves from this critique. “The happiness agenda should not be considered anti-technological or anti-material,” reads the conference summary from last August. “There is no going back to a simpler life, for a basic arithmetic reason. We are now seven billion people with a tremendous difficulty of provision, meeting the needs of people, being able to operate complex societies. Any attempt to turn back technology would lead to devastation.”
The Tea Party, in other words can breathe easy. The Buddhists of Bhutan have no designs on the capitalist system, or the rest of our freedoms. In fact, the Land of the Thunder Dragon may have more in common with the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave than you might imagine. After all, they share the fundamental aspiration enunciated in America’s founding document: the pursuit of happiness.
The views expressed in this document are solely those of Stewart Patrick.
There are several motivational theories on this subject (created in the 1920's). I like Hygiene theory.
And I think Jean Jacques Rousseau made a point: Civilisation and a society that endorses consumerism and the urge for "keeping up with the Jones" – are blamed for blemishing people's pursuit of happiness.
Rousseau never said that.
You big time liar.
Research israels aparteid policies.
Investigate AIPAC contributions to politicians.
Israel is the leading cause of anti-semtism.
Don't support pro zionist politicians.
Copy and paste. Change perspectives.
@Patrick, Have you REALLY read Rousseaus works?
yep, University course.
Please do not insult the Bhutanese by claiming 'they have more to do with the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave than you think'. They are as far removed from the disgusting capitalism that America embodies as is possible,
You, good sir, made my day! And I agree, Bhutan is by far better than anything that the USA haas to offer. Having been there 3 times myself, I can tell you that whilst in the country you feel as if you have been removed from the whole dependence on money that exists outside of it. It's much more calm, more beautiful, more natural, more "real". GNH isn't against Capitalism, but neither is it for it. Furthermore it isn't socialist either, it's more the calm, sustained middle ground which must exist between the two.
I think all people want to be happy. its normal and we are trying to see any sight that its possible on our earth. we see people in West countries could not be able happy because they are too envy too aggressive and so on..We need change our mind , maybe with new belief.I don"t know but I know , i want live with happy people more than with unhappy..Who know how we can create so society, but its very inspire !
The key to happiness is really very simple. Ethnically cleanse and forcefully evict 100,000 citizens( more than 20% of its population) from the country which in effect significantly increases the country's GDP. These forcefully evicated refugees were immigrants from Nepal and India who settled in Bhutan generations ago and were earlier granted citizenship by Bhutan, but later evicted. Nepal, the birth place of the Buddha, took those refugees, while Bhutan who claims to follow Buddha's message and promote Gross National Happiness committed the worst human rights violations and ethnic cleansing in the last couple of decades. Please don't give a blank check to Bhutan and support them. You need to study the whole picture before doing this!
You sir too, need to study the overall picture. Although nobody denies these evictions, most people tend to overlook the deeper reasons behind them. It isn't enough to just look at it from a very simple standpoint, saying "oh well they clearly ethnically cleansed their population!", one must look at the existing social, political, and religious instability which was caused by these "nationals". In truth, if one analyzes all the facts it can clearly be seen that perfectly reasonable and understandable reasons existed for the eviction of these people.
Darthkarnus, you must do bit more reading and travelling in Bhutan. If removing certain 'nationals' from a country, in this context Bhutan, stabilises Bhutan's politics and religion, you should go back to your school and ask for the refunds and sue all the teachers. Why haven't Bhutan progressed much since those 'nationlas' have been removed?
Also Stewart Patrick and the Senior Editor of the CNN should do bit more background research before publishing story like this. Bhutan is a beautiful country with lovely people. However, it is definately not a role model by any means. Do your homework and do not publish articles which has already been stated by other media and ages ago.
I have done both, thank you very much, and since those nationals have left the country, it has progressed by leaps and bounds. Furthermore, I'm sorry if it's difficult to understand that a single, ethnically and religiously uniform state is by far more stable and fit for progress than one with a major difference in the two, unless there is a clear dominating ethnicity/religion which has an almost imperial level of control over the others. Furthermore, if you yourself would take the time and discuss this with higher-up authorities in Bhutan itself, you would see that the removal of these "Bhutanese nationals of Nepali descent" has actually improved the country itself and actually allowed progress to come.
Please, PLEASE read these links and then decide for yourselves if the Bhutan government ACTUALLY represent the last bastion of Mahayana Buddhism and the enlightened governance they purport to; PLEASE ask Jigme Thinley or anyone else in the Bhutan government why they refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing in their ongoing ethnic cleansing of over 1/6 their population for nearly 20 years - making that country one of the top ten worst human rights abusers in the world. It's gross, it's national, but it is FAR from happy. The 100,000 refugees being placed around the world so far from the Nepalese camps are AFRAID to speak out because they still have relatives within Bhutan's borders who can and will be tortured or imprisoned or otherwise punished if their relatives speak out. Bhutan will still not allow United Nations to visit southern Bhutan, where the rich lands were forcibly taken by the Buddhists. It is heartbreaking and needs to be brought out into the light. Please STOP propagating this garbage idea that Bhutan is above it all, or better than the west. It is trying to play the west and that is all. Thank you for reading this. Please, please pass it on. We've had over a decade of this misinformation.
Don't worry! Corporate America will find a way to keep the system in place that makes them happy.
Yes. Any country can if the "invalid happiness" is removed.
(From W. Ying; "Be Happy Validly!" p. 39, CreateSpace, Amazon, 2012)
BHUTAN ,ONE OF THE ETHINC CLEANER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. CHASING MORE THEN ONE LAKH NEPALESE SPEAKING CITIZEN FROM SOUTHER PART OF BHUTAN.. NEPALESE SPEAKING PEOPLE ARE STILL DOMINATED IN COUNTRY .THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO ACCESS THE GOVERNMENT JOBS,SCHOOL,HIGH POST. BHUTAN IS ONE OF THE DEMOCRACY VIOLENCE COUNTRY .YAA THEY ARE HAPPY NOW COZ THEY HAD MADE MORE THEN ONE LAKH THEIR CITIZEN REFUGEE. CANT THEY FELT SHAME SAYING BHUTAN IS HAPPY COUNTRY.... "CNN DONT WORRY THERE IS BRUTAL KING BUT THERE ISNT OIL "
I do not know whether this article is biased or not – cause almost 1200 families (Bhutanese refugees – 1145 by number till last year and so far it must have reached 1200 families by now) been settled here in Australia and I heard that its around 30000 families in USA and couple of thousand in Europe in different countries. Now the question of Gross National Happiness – which comes from where? Ask any of those refugees who lost everything – how they been displaced from their own country Bhutan – what is left behind in their hand when they landed in refugee centre in Nepal from GNH country so called Bhutan, you will get the answer! Do the simple math – you got a family of 8 in a home – 4 of them were kicked off – 4 were left – you got more room for the family, more food for the family and less headache and now say that your countrys GNH is 100%!!!
Why is the story about Bhutan when Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world?
Yeah,it pays to allow one‘s time to reflect on the positive aspects of life. It‘s time for African leaders to use this natural good to effect real economic growth!!!
Quote: "awareness and avoidance of pure status goods,” (...) “controlling the media in a way that doesn’t limit freedom but restrains the creation of artificial cravings.”
Here also they have it right, and history, again, will prove them right. Of course, liberal media disagrees and play cynical. You bet.
Please read the following article written by Dr. Alexander Casella. I do not doubt that this issue has created a hype about the Royal Government of Bhutan's role in the refugees that are being resettled in western countries. However, as previous authors have related that there is the need to look at the bigger picture, it is in this hope that the readers will also take time to read the following article to understand the actual events that lead to the humanitarian crisis and the make up their mind on the issue. Further, readers may also wish to look at the background of the author whcih is being posted as follows:
Dr Alexander Casella is a consultant on refugee, illegal migration, population movements, conflicts, repatriation, rehabilitation and small arms collection. He is also Director/Presenter of a half hourly weekly program on
Radio Tirana, Geneva. Prior to his present appointment, Dr Casella held senior positions with the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from 1973 – 1996. He was a writer, war correspondent, political commentator, television director and editor, Bangkok World from 1962 -1975. He was also Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, New York, and has been a guest lecturer and seminar participant at various universities.
Mr/Ms Brown – you do not have to give reference of the author – just become a refugee in foreign country and live a life for a day – you will understand what a pain is. Then come and discuss and give links
yeah, like you are the only one who can feel pain.
A country where almost more than 200 thousands people are forced to leave the country by a dictator can claim to be the country of happy people. This is a shame. I really condemn the Bhutanese government for doing this and how much you can produce propaganda. You are not that much different from Hitler, Stalin and other mass killers. The history will take revenge against. I have not also understood why CNN is supporting this terrible dictatorial regime.
Sad but true, some of my Nepalese friends said that if given the opportunity they would also like to register as refugees in the camps in Nepal and then resettle in the US or some other western countries. And they guys who said these are government officials holding high posts. I suppose you arn't one of them.
bhutan is a beautiful country, naturally gifted one. but if we talk about people, they have mainly nepalese origin people and tibetan origin people. country is ruled by a tibetan origin king while nepalses origin people makes the most of the population. minority ruling over majority. something like twenty years back, then king forcefully evicted its 100000 nepalese origin citizens, biting, killing, burning their properties etc.. etc.. these refugees got shelter in Nepal and international organizations were helping them until recent year. And now, because of indian support to bhutan, international committee are sure that its unsolvable. so, they decided to relocate these refugees and thus, relocated in the USA, Australia and few EU countries while there are still many living in nepal too. so, how could news media like CNN publish Bhutan as one of the happiest country......why the government of the USA and other democratic nations not taking any measures for implementation of democracy, freedom and equal rights to every citizens of Bhutan?
what a dramatic story!! Bhutan has committed ethnic cleansing by removing Nepalese speaking people and this was done because India backed this plan.Bhutan is a country with too much Indian influence and USA and west went blind about this issue when Nepal was struggling with Bhutanese refuges.there are thousands of people from Bhutan settled in USA,Australia and Canada today and this story does not have a merit in my opinion. the writer must be sitting in USA and doing some doggy research!!get real man!!.
Where do you see freedom and democracy in Bhutan,first?The dictator who forced his one people to kick off from the country and cannot go back for ever ,is this a new meaning of democracy?My special suggestion for CNN to visit the Bhutanese refuge camp and ask to those people who are living in foreign land .Also you can find lot of Bhutanese in USA who are taken by the country for resettlement just arrange the time to meet them and know their feeling.
Fromt he readers above, it definately is sad that people exists that do not fully comprehend what happiness entails. The refugees living in Nepal are the making of their own woes and being resetteld in western countries is the greatest gift that they have received since congregrating in the refugee camps in Nepal from the surrounding areas of Nepal claiming to be refugees. I am sure that if Bhutan had done wrong to such a large population of people that still claim to be Bhutanese, the international community woudl not have wasted time fixing Bhutan. There surely must be some reason that the internatioanl community had not taken Bhutan to task... and the only reason that I can think of is that these people are not Bhutanese but Nepalese who have migrated out of Nepal for economic resons. I have noted in reports that the Nepalese people are the largest migrating tribe in the himalayan belt. Nepal's population is about 298 million and the north eastern belt has another 2-3 million Nepalese people. Further, about a million Nepalese people move out of Nepal looking for economic opportunities. So it is fully understandable that Nepalese have been hoarding into the camps set up by UNHC in a very big hurry. READ Alexander Casella's story (He was the number two person in the UNHCR when the incendent took place in early 1991) on the refugee issue on Bhutan to fully understand the situation and you get the story from the horses mouth. the link to the article is as follows:
Sadly the so called refugeees contuinue to thrive and grow in the name of Bhutan when they have not even set foot in Bhutan. The least they can do is appreciate Bhutan for that it has provided them an avenue to settle in western countries rather than rot in some corner of nepal.
Poor so called Brown. I can see that you are infact not Brown. I can see that from the English you are writing. Trying to mislead the narrative of the conversations here also eh!? My family had been in Bhutan for five generations. And you are trying to make buy your 'story from [your] horse[s] mouth'?
Be real, for any of foreigners/westerners willing to assess the reality facing these people in southern Bhutan and those resettled, please try to talk to the resettled ones or travel to Bhutan. One, you will not be let to travel on your own, you have to be taken by the government assigned tourist guides to go to where they want you to go. Two, access to basic right like education is also in question as with some research you will find that almost none of the southern Bhutanese of Nepali descent get to come to the USA for further studies.
How much ever you try to shout foul to the Lhotshampa population, we will shape the narrative and expose the lies of GNH, will take a couple of years.
Thank you Zangmo! and Kadinchhey !!
It's amazing how time and again people like you throw accusations at refugees who have forcefully been evicted from their country. I have been in the camps in Nepal and spoken many people and gathered an enormous amount of proof of the reality of the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing. That information was and is backud up by a long list of human rights reports, statements and articles by many honored scholars from a number of countries including Nepal, even India, UK, US, and so forth. No matter how deep you stick your head in the sand, historical fact cannot be denied. Therefore your statemens 'Brown' as rediculous and ignorent. Not to be taken seriously.
Dear Ms. Alice Verheij:
I appreciate your help for Bhutanese refugees living refugee camps in Nepal. However, I disagree with your waging a propaganda war against the Government of Bhutan. You are a citizen of Netherlands and you always insult the King of Bhutan and criticize the Bhutanese Government all the times, and that makes you biased. You are a journalist, writer, a moviemaker, film director, and most importantly you are a foreigner. You also have called the United States of America as an "Evil Empire". Being an American citizen and being a writer, I firmly believe that an honest writer is always in a search for truth and he/she continues his/her search for more truth, but by openly declaring that you are against the Government of Bhutan, insulting the King of Bhutan and calling him a “Criminal”, you have lost your status of being neutral or unbiased. You claim that the Government of Bhutan has refused to allow you to enter Bhutan, just because of your opposition to the Bhutanese Government. You are fighting against monarchy in Bhutan when the kings and the Queens are ruling your own country Netherlands, and many other countries like Denmark, Norway and many other countries in Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa. I think you are mad at the Bhutanese Government just because it did not let you enter Bhutan. So be honest and admit the fact you hate Bhutanese Government for your own personal reasons. By the way I would like to know what are you doing in refugee camps in Nepal and other parts of Nepal for many months? Aren’t you done with your movies and writing books on Bhutanese refugees issues? I read somewhere that you are selling your books, pictures and movies to make profit? I also have gone to the refugee camps and have recorded videos and took pictures but I would never want to sell them for profit. What was your purpose of traveling Nepal? Was it a business visa, a travel/tourist visa or some other kind of visa that you applied for before entering Nepal? Did you get permission from UNHCR before entering the refugee camps? No matter how long you stay inside of refugee camps, and no matter how many people you talked to, you side of the story always will remain biased and one-sided until you visit Bhutan and get Bhutanese Government’s side of the story. So, I suggest you offer your apology to the Bhutanese Government for calling the King of Bhutan as “Criminal”, and apply for a visa to enter Bhutan and I am sure the Bhutanese Government will allow you to enter Bhutan. After visiting Bhutan, and after meeting with Bhutanese Government officials and the ordinary citizens of Bhutan, you will be able to know the truth. Be assured I have nothing against you personally, but I just want you to be neutral and unbiased. You are a foreigner and you should act like one. If you really want to help your Bhutanese refugee friends, please go to Bhutan and meet the King and request for relief for your Bhutanese refugee friends, and may be he will allow all of the remaining Bhutanese refugees living in the refugee camps to return to Bhutan. If you need my help, I would love to go with you to Bhutan. Let us go to Bhutan together and let us request the King of Bhutan to allow all of the remaining Bhutanese refugees to return to Bhutan with dignity and respect.
Mr. Shahid M. Pasha, Massachusetts, USA
Shame on you and shame on Bhutan.
Brown, your reference to the link very much states where you get your information from. I am surprised you did not included the Bhutanese government POV as well. I think what most people here are saying (those who do know the background ) is that on what ground Bhutan is going to present Gross National Happiness and to whom? For Bhutan to be the centre of an attention for the topic such as GNH is great and ambitious. Unfortunately, this also attracts unwarrented attention such as opinions and concerns from the people who have been directly or indirectly affected by the expulson of the minorities. The true picture is Bhutan does not have clean record and Bhutan would prefer not to talk about it.
Thank you for the clarifications karen and other writers on the forum. Just to let readers know that apparently Bhutan is a democracy and that by the records, it states that 20% of its population currently are of Nepalese Origin Bhutanese, the so called Southern Bhutanese.. meaning that there has not been ethnic cleansing as some prefer to say. I believe that non Bhutanese had been expelled out of Bhutan just as so many western countries expel and deport illegal immigrants. We in the west should first learn to accept all economic migrants from the developing world and then point finger to Bhutan and say that Bhutan should also accept all those economic migrants in their country. By the way, I heard that two of the Ministers in the current government, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Information and Communication are of Nepalese Origin (Southern Bhutanese). now imagine a person of Bhutanese descent ever becoming a Minister in Nepal??? So all your talks about ethnic cleansing and refugees don't hold water, when most you guys would have never been to Bhutan or the region and understand the socio-economic situations in the region. Tell you what, first let us clean our own backyards and then lecture others.
Many songs have been written aginast meaningless violence everyday and I bet the young women involved must be lip syncing them without actually giving it a thought. Horrible!!To think of such an incident happening in Bhutan, where the so called educated new generation should be giving a good example to young increasing delinquents is a utter and terrible shame.I remember also going to clubbing in Thimphu but I would not become aggressive just because someone nudged me in a crowded room. Just a simple apology is enough.The incidence is being played down by the media which is a scandal. The media and the society should contemplate and address such incidences. Most people think that if they keep their mouth shut- that it will stop. NO ! Spread awareness that meaningless violence is not necessary.
I have so many of Bhutanese refugees (Former refugees and current refugees) friends, and they seem to be very nice people. Most of them feel they were citizens of Bhutan. The Bhutanese Government claims that most of these refugees were in fact, came to Butan from India, Nepal and other countries and are not citizens of Bhutan, but were illegal immigrants. I do not ake sides but I think the best solution to this refugee problem is that all of the remaining refugees living in the camps in Nepal, should come to USA. Once all of those remaining refugees leave these refugee camps, the refugee problem will be solved forever. By the way, I am not an agent of Bhutanese Government, nor I support every political view of the Bhutanese Government, but being an American citizen, I want to see an end to the miseries of those refugees who are still suffering and living a very miserable life in those camps without electricity and other basic facilities. I have visited those camps in pril 2011 and I felt bad for those refugees. Shahid M. Pasha, Massachusetts, USA
In terms of royal government's concept of GNH, it is completely hallow without addressing the intentionally created refugees (now spread all over the world) issue, and without addressing the socio-economic development of the rural Bhutan.
I have envisioned that after 25 years from now all the Bhutanese refugee will be able to go back to Bhutan demolishing the present royal outdated so called elite.
Thank you for this most important post. I would enjoy a GPS special devoted to the development and implementation of economic models based on well- being, and shining a light on the scholars and public servants who are fostering these models.
One company in Canada that has been doing this work is GPI Atlantic. GPI stands for Genuine Progress Index and the company has done many studies showing the value of volunteerism, the cost of obesity, etcetera. (Unfortunately, GPI also sponsored the Bhutan government in a big conference on GNH a few years ago. Talk about shooting themselves in their own foot!) http://www.gpiatlantic.org/
I think Bhutan wanna show it artificially flourided front teeth;but forgot about big big cavities on molar premolar back.My fore father work hard to develop that country and start living over their before so called ruling ethnic group arrive Bhutan.Unfortunate they make refugee to me for more than 17 years.n they say happy over there , they forgot there are lot of unhappy bhutanese citizen around the globe due to their autocratic rule.Shame to Bhutan
Thank you (katinchela)
ooops! I had thought that it was CNN India.
Your point Zippy?
My brother suggested I would possibly like this website. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You can not consider just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!
Bhutan is an example where the less money above its optimal point, the more real or "valid" happiness people have.
(From W. Ying; "Be Happy Validly!", CreateSpace, Amazon, 2012)
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