In Bhutan, Happiness Index as Gauge for Social Ills

Kai Schultz in The New York Times:

BHUTAN-3-master675THIMPHU, Bhutan — As a downpour settled into a thick fog outside, Dasho Karma Ura let his eyes flicker at the ceiling of a wood-paneled conference room and began expounding on the nature of happiness. “People feel happy when they see something ethical,” he said. “When you think you have done something right and brave and courageous, when you can constantly recharge yourself as a meaningful actor.” “And lastly,” he added, thumbing Buddhist prayer beads, “something which makes you pause and think, ‘Ah, this is beautiful. Beautiful, meaningful, ethical.’ ”

Mr. Ura, 55, is perhaps one of the world’s leading experts on happiness, at least as seen through the lens of development economics. It has been something of a preoccupation for more than two decades as he has developed and fine-tuned Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness indicator, a supplementary, sometimes alternative, yardstick to the conventional measure of development, gross domestic product. As the president of the Center for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, Mr. Ura has spent much of his time asking Bhutanese questions about interactions with neighbors, quality of sleep and physical vigor in an attempt to understand and measure subjective well-being. Over the years, he has watched the idea catch on far beyond Bhutan, a remote kingdom in the Himalayas. When Denmark repeatedly came in first on the World Happiness Report, which looks at the science of measuring quality of life, more people became aware of both the report, and the concept behind it. As nations struggle with what Mr. Ura called more “guns, bullets and bombs” than at any other time in history, he said it was imperative that many more countries devise indicators that look beyond economics.

More here.