"Gross national happiness" in numbers

By Razib Khan | May 27, 2011 12:34 am

Bhutan famously espouses “gross national happiness”:

The term “gross national happiness” was coined in 1972 by Bhutan’s former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who has opened Bhutan to the age of modernization, soon after the demise of his father, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He used the phrase to signal his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values….

Apparently the nation has recent switched from absolute to constitutional monarchy:

Bhutan’s political system has developed from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. In 1999, the fourth king of Bhutan created a body called the Lhengye Zhungtshog (Council of Ministers). The Druk Gyalpo (King of Druk Yul) is head of state. Executive power is exercised by the Lhengye Zhungtshog, the council of ministers. Legislative power was vested in both the government and the former Grand National Assembly.

On the 17th of December 2005, the 4th King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, announced to a stunned nation that the first general elections would be held in 2008, and that he would abdicate the throne in favor of his eldest son, the crown prince….

From what I can tell the royal house of Bhutan seems genuinely sincere. More plainly paternalist than deiviously despotic.

Below are some Google Data trend lines comparing Bhutan to some of its smaller South Asian neighbors, as well as Sweden and Equatorial Guinea as comparisons at the high and low ends.

MORE ABOUT: Bhutan, Data, Economics

Comments (5)

  1. pconroy

    Interesting, it seems that except for malnutrition, Bhutan tracks Sri Lanka closely – another majority Buddist country??

  2. Ian

    Had a friend spend a few months there – her husband went there to study smoking policy, but ended up writing a book on Gross National Happiness. What I was struck by was the remoteness and inaccessibility of so much of the country.

    I’ve come across the same thing reading about Bolivia. I just don’t think I have a good mental model for “remote”. Maybe that’s what happens when you grow up in a small island. But even in the US, you expect that towns, no matter how remote, are served by roads. And that very few people live in the places that are really hard to get to. I get the sense that’s not the case in Bhutan (or Bolivia, or Papua New Guinea). People live where they live. If the road reaches them, great. If it doesn’t – well, that’s just the way it is.

  3. Karol

    Razib – I’ve noticed that on a lot of these country-comparison posts, you put Sweden into the stats. Is this because you regard it as a sort of prototypical Western developed nation?

  4. yes. it’s a “control.”

  5. Domino

    Sweden doesn’t seem to be the best ‘control’, since it is untypical of Western nations in so many ways – sparsely populated, mostly wilderness, homogenous, untroubled by war. It’s more of an outlier.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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