“Development” as Happiness

“Development” as Happiness

[Our] measures of progress and GNH index clearly show that producing and consuming more stuff does not make people happier. On the contrary when they overwork and go into debt to buy ever more goods and pay the bills, they get more stressed. Working, producing and consuming less is not only good for nature but gives us more time to enjoy each others.

– Prime Minister Thinley of Bhutan

Bhutan has “critical development” – at least in theory – down pat. And it’s something we really ought to look to and learn from.

I can’t imagine a better end to “progress” and “development” than happiness. That’s the implicit feeling we’re supposed to get when we think of economic “development.” The mental image is healthy people smiling and laughing with each other next to their shiny cars and shiny buildings.

If the people were frowning, obese, and being yelled at by their boss, would we be so excited about the shiny cars and shiny buildings in the background?

Yet that is sadly our reality of “development” in America, where we lead the pack of “developed” countries with depression, crime, ill health, and, oh yes, GDP.

So why not make happiness the explicit goal?

Yes it’s hard to measure – and I’m not sure I agree with the way it’s been done with the “gross national happiness” indicator. But if we have to put “development” in a quantitative box for the time being, it’s a good place to start.

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