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 Well, the Kingdom of Bhutan, in 1991, rescinded citizenship from, and then expelled, its Nepalese-Hindi minority – about 100,000 people – who went on (unhappily) to languish in refugee camps.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.