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Gross National Happiness

by Jonah Goodman

Gross National Happiness, or GNH, is Bhutan’s most famous export. Invented in 1972 by the fourth king, GNH is the idea that personal feelings of stability in a country’s population are a better indicator of its success than Gross National Product. Since the late 1990s, GNH has been the guiding principle of the Bhutanese state, putting cultural preservation, environmental conservation and good governance on an equal footing with economic development in the formulation of new policies. Every few years, a survey calculates Bhutan’s GNH Index by means of a byzantine array of nine ‘domains’, 38 ‘sub-indexes’, 72 ‘indicators’ and 151 ‘variables’. It currently stands at 0.756, up 0.013 from five years ago. For most people in the country, however, GNH is encapsulated by a sense that happiness is important, and money isn’t everything.

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