04 April 2012

Bhutan: Don't believe the hype

On Monday the Guardian kindly explained "Why we'd all be happier in Bhutan." I'm giving Sarah Boseley the benefit of the doubt and assuming that she didn't actually write the headline, given that the report her article is about puts mean happiness in Bhutan at 6.05 (on a scale of 1 to 10), compared to a mean of 7.2 from similarly worded survey questions in Britain. Just because Bhutan measures happiness and its Prime Minister talks a lot about Gross National Happiness, doesn't mean its people are actually happy.
The GDP-lead development model that compels boundless growth on a planet with limited resources no longer makes economic sense. It is the cause of our irresponsible, immoral and self-destructive actions," [Prime Minister] Thinley said
Which is fine and everything yeah, but sometimes nice things like health services cost money. Which is why Bhutan, a lower middle income country, has 12% child malnutrition rates. Unlike Britain.

And a life expectancy of 65. Britain is 80 just hit 100.

So it shouldn't really be too much of a surprise to see this kind of relationship 

Finally, a commenter on the Guardian article notes;
Why do so many articles on this subject fail to mention the government-supported suppression of religious and political freedoms in Bhutan, not to mention the hundred thousand UN-registered refugees now living in camps in Nepal and abroad? Is this the example we want to follow?
None of which is to say that measuring happiness or thinking deeply about the goals of policy are bad ideas, but neither should we go ga-ga for weak democracies. 


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