I am a huge fan of NPR’s Planet Money podcast. I love it because they cover interesting topics about business, finance, and the worldwide economy. On a recent episode they covered the economic measurement of Gross National Happiness (GNH). While many people are familiar with Gross Domestic Product (GDP), fewer are acquainted with GNH.
The tiny country of Bhutan has been measuring and quantifying its population’s happiness. Bhutan believes that GDP is not the only, or even most important way to measure progress. According to an article in The Gaurdian, Bhutan has “doubled life expectancy, enrolled almost 100% of its children in primary school and overhauled its infrastructure” during the past 20 years. The country has been committed to this principle for several decades, but recently other countries have been paying closer attention.
Canada, France, and Great Britain are a few of the countries that have started to collect statistics on happiness; in the US, a federally funded panel has been created to look at the issue. Arguably, the main purpose of government is to provide societal structure that will allow its citizens to pursue (and hopefully achieve) happiness. It’s even in our Declaration of Independence. There are skeptics, detractors, and those who believe that “The happiness movement is at best utopian; at worst, it’s silly and oppressive.” One of the many criticisms is that happiness is a difficult thing to measure. While this may be true, many of the national metrics we look at can be difficult to measure and subjective. I personally think that this is an important statistic, but maybe it’s because I’m feeling happy today.
What are your thoughts? Should Gross National Happiness be measured and reported or is it an unimportant/unquantifiable metric? How would you rate your happiness?
—Aaron Baldwin, Designer