In 1972, Bhutan's fourth hereditary King Jigme Singye Wangchuk proclaimed that Gross National Happiness (GNH) was more important than Gross Domestic Product, http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/bhutan/gnh.html. This proclamation, which did not focus primarily on traditional economic measures to gauge societal progress was made in response to modernization and economic globalization changes and pressures on the relatively pastoral and isolated primarily Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. These modernization pressures could have significantly changed Bhutan's unique identity. As a result of this proclamation, GNH has become one of the primary national public policies guiding and regulating development in Bhutan.
Since 1972, an ongoing process has been occurring to describe and tease out in further detail what GNH means and how to measure it. Two primary institutions in Bhutan are currently involved in this effort. They include the Centre for Bhutan Studies, http://www.bhutanstudies.org.bt/main/index.php a non-governmental organization in Thimphu and the Gross National Happiness Commission, http://www.pc.gov.bt/ a government agency that was formerly called the Planning Commission. The process of further delineating GNH has already included four important international academic conferences to discuss what GNH means. A fifth international conference is now scheduled to take place in Brazil in late November 2009, http://www.bhutanstudies.org.bt/main/highlight_detail.php?id=47
Happiness under GNH is not defined as individual happiness such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as we know it in the U.S. Rather happiness under GNH is a holistic idea that balances the material with the spiritual for the benefit of the greater society. In more specific terms GNH has been described as having four mutually balanced general pillars including: sustainable development, maintaining cultural values, preservation of the natural environment, and good governance. Recently, this has been further subdivided into nine core dimensions, http://grossnationalhappiness.com/gnhIndex/intruductionGNH.aspx including:
1. Psychological Well-being
2. Time Use
3. Community Vitality
7. Environmental Diversity
8. Living Standard
These nine core dimensions now have 72 numeric indicators, http://grossnationalhappiness.com/gnhIndex/gnhIndexVariables.aspx. These indicators are weighed equally together to come up with a final calculation of the general happiness of Bhutan, http://grossnationalhappiness.com/gnhIndex/intruductionGNH.aspx The indicators are determined through national surveys. Of course, not everyone in the country is happy for a variety of reasons and issues.
In the days to come I will continue to dig much deeper through careful research of first-hand and original sources into what the four pillars and nine core dimensions mean from a theoretical and philosophical perspective to provide a nuanced description of GNH and also how it links to Bhutan's current ban on tobacco use.