The underlying development philosophy of globalisation seeks to maximise happiness through the cultivation of a narrow materialist self-interest and competitiveness, both at the level of the individual and at the level of the nation-state. Despite voluminous evidence that this growth-fixated model of material economy polarises global well-being and seriously undermines environmental security, most, in the developed world at least, seem perfectly content to continue achieving happiness in irresponsible ways. This paper explores the deeper dynamics of an economic ideology of which GNP is only the most visible aspect and asks whether Bhutan’s search for an alternative approach really entails the search for a more responsible form of happiness – one that inherently involves a more compassionate mode of being in the world. Using the Four Pillars of Gross National Happiness as a framework, it argues that the cultivation of a deeper happiness lies in ensuring that the inter-dependent realms of culture, good governance, economy and the environment remain in sustainable balance.
From a Buddhist perspective, as well as from that of much of contemporary science, interdependence can be affirmed as the deep nature of all things. Yet, there are Buddhist teachings that the cycles of conditions leading to suffering or trouble (samsara) are without beginning, as well as teachings that all beings have Buddha-nature or the capacity for enlightenment (nirvana). Affirming that all things arise interdependently is not to affirm that they do so in a necessarily liberating way. Interdependence, we can say, has no essential self-nature. It can mean increasing wealth, skillful means, and happiness. It can also mean deepening poverty, trouble, and suffering.
3. Cherry Picking in Bhutan by Michael Rowbotham
This paper focusses on the way that orthodox economic policies can erode and destroy the happiness of a society and its people. It also outlines a range of economic policies and ethics that have the potential to provide a structure within which GNH might be more effectively created. This is by avoiding some of the mistakes of orthodoxy, and considering alternative ‘New Economic’ policies that provide room for the many subtle elements that contribute to GNH to emerge.
4. Putting Gross National Happiness in the Service of Good Development by Johannes Hirata
This paper tries to investigate the merit and the potential of GNH to serve as a development concept by discussing what GNH should stand for and how it should be operationalized. It first discusses the nature of happiness and its relation to human behavior and decision making in order to shed light on the relationship between happiness and ethics. Then the author briefly presents his understanding of (deontological) ethics, before examining the relationship between happiness and economic growth on the basis of empirical evidence. Finally, he proposes a particular interpretation of GNH and relates it to the concept of good development.
5. Bhutan’s Quadrilemma: to Join or Not to Join the WTO, That is the Question by Mark Mancall
This paper argues that any discussion of the operationalization of Gross National Happiness (GNH) in Bhutan within an immediate or intermediate time-frame must account for the fact that operationalization implies the adoption of long-range policy objectives and immediate or intermediate policy decisions, made in real time, that aim at reaching those objectives. The discussion of any operationalizaton of GNH, therefore, cannot fruitfully take place in abstracto, because that implies a lack of seriousness in raising the subject in the first place. The paper seeks to outline, only briefly and suggestively, a framework within which discussion of the operationalization of GNH may take place, focusing on the question of Bhutan’s possible entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). It concludes that a decision to operationalize GNH in Bhutan carries with it certain consequences that can be defined within the structure of the problem of choice, and that structure can best be considered as a quadrilemma. The potential consequences of choice must be taken into account in choosing for any particular set of policy directions and the potential cost must be accepted as part of the solution of the problem the quadrilemma suggests.