Sunday, July 11, 2010

GNH = Gross National Happiness?

When I mention to people that I write about happiness, they often get starry-eyed and mention Bhutan's policy of Gross National Happiness. Well, the Kingdom of Bhutan, in 1991, rescinded citizenship from, and then expelled, its Nepalese-Hindi minority – about 100,000 people – who went on (unhappily) to languish in refugee camps. Bhutan refused to negotiate with UNHCR about their repatriation. Can the forced expulsion of an unwanted minority be justified by the happiness of the majority? And, don't we call that 'ethnic cleansing', rather than the path to happiness? Wasn't Hitler famous for rescinding citizenship from certain minorities and then disposing of them?

Does GNH stand for Gross National Happiness, or Gross National Hypocrisy?

Part of Bhutan's evaluation of the happiness of citizens is based on how frequently they follow Bhuddhist guidelines about daily prayer (which is not very often, if my reading of the results proved to be correct). Why should compliance with one official religion's practices be a part of a nation's supposed happiness?

I admire Buddhism as a philosophy, but maybe someone can comment.

See also my article: Duncan, G. (2010). Should happiness-maximization be the goal of government? Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(2): 163–178.

And this link is interesting too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Grant,

I've come across your 2007 paper "After happiness", in the context of which you may perhaps be interested in what a UK Member of Parliament said recently:

"it's not government's job to make people happy".

You may well be aware of this already, but thought I'd send you the link. I must admit that the above quote first made me speechless and then made me think....

5:28 am  
Blogger Grant Duncan said...

Thanks for that comment and for the news item. I hadn't seen it.

I happen to agree that it is not the job of governments to (try to) make people happy.


11:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Thanks for sharing the link - but unfortunately it seems to be down? Does anybody here at have a mirror or another source?


6:46 am  
Blogger Grant Duncan said...

Oliver, I've added that link to the bottom of the article. GD

8:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at

May I use some of the information from your blog post above if I give a link back to your site?


12:16 am  
Blogger Grant Duncan said...

You can quote this blog like any other document. Normal rules regarding plagiarism apply.

3:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice work, Thanks

10:18 pm  

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