Bhutan at a Crossroads

From Greater Good magazine:

Nestled in the soaring eastern himalayas between Tibet and India, Bhutan is one of the happiest countries on Earth. How do we know that? Because when researchers at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom pieced together 100 studies to create the first world map of happiness in 2007, Bhutan ranked first in Asia and eighth in the world—which is extraordinary, given that Bhutan’s Gross Domestic Product ranks 137…..

Given Bhutan’s singular circumstances and its differences from a heterogeneous, large-scale, and highly developed country like the U.S., does this Himalayan Buddhist nation have something to teach North Americans about how to cultivate happiness in the face of social and technological change?

Tim Kasser, associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Illinois and the author of the 2002 book The High Price of Materialism, believes it does. He has spent two decades studying people’s values and goals and how they relate to their quality of life, and he has recently turned his attention to exploring how public policy can foster individual happiness. Kasser cites two ways in which Bhutan’s focus on GNH can have such an impact.

First, it offers important cues to the country’s citizens. “By setting up GNH and working hard to establish policies that help achieve it, Bhutan is offering a whole different set of values as to what’s important,” he explains.