The King Putting Happiness Before Economic Growth

Gross National Happiness (1999): The kingdom of Bhutan is placing environmental concerns and spiritual well-being over rampant capitalism.

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“We are not interested in gross national product, we’re interested in gross national happiness.” That’s the doctrine of the young King of Bhutan. He is determined to maintain the diversity of his Buddhist kingdom where the pursuit of money must be balanced with spiritual well-being. And his approach to modernisation seems to be working. During the King’s reign life expectancy has increased by 20 years. At his jubilee celebrations, banners fly and prayer wheels spin. “Yes he’s a good king,” giggle the children “…he’s very handsome.” Wealth is only generated by environmentally benign activity. Top-dollar tourism and streaming hydroelectric power to India are the biggest earners. And whilst the streets are not paved with gold, they literally sprout a carpet of wild marijuana. But they don’t smoke it here – they feed it to the pigs. “It fattens them up nicely.” In the race for happiness Bhutan is a fierce contender.

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