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Should Gross National Happiness replace GDP?

A more sustainable approach

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A new report shows that social factors are more important than wealth when it comes to happiness, and some believe a new development paradigm is in order, according to Time World:

Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley told a high-level U.N. meeting Monday that it not only should measure and improve Gross National Happiness, but that it must if mankind is to avoid its current unsustainable and self-destructive course.

Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan nation which tops Asia in the United Nations’ First World Happiness Report, convened the meeting seeking to develop a new economic model based on principles of happiness and well being.

“The GDP-led development model that compels boundless growth on a planet with limited resources no longer makes economic sense. It is the cause of our irresponsible, immoral and self-destructive actions,” Thinley said. “The purpose of development must be to create enabling conditions through public policy for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of happiness by all citizens.”

The conference titled “Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm,” brought together hundreds of representatives of government — including Costa Rican President Laura Chincilla — academics and other civic leaders to discuss the issue. All endorsed the importance of happiness, though not necessarily Bhutan’s proposed index.

Jeffery Sachs, a prominent development economist at Columbia University in New York who edited the World Happiness Report along with John Helliwell and Richard Layard, said that happiness could be achieved independent of economic well-being as measured by GNP. The report was released to coincide with the conference.

“GNP (gross national product) by itself does not promote happiness,” Sachs told the conference. “The U.S. has had a three time increase of GNP per capita since 1960, but the happiness needle hasn’t budged. Other countries have pursued other policies and achieved much greater gains of happiness, even at much lower levels of per capita income.”

Although wealthy nations like Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands lead the rankings of happiest countries while poor nations like Togo, Benin, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone ranked among the least happy, the report noted that social factors such as the strength of social support, the absence of corruption and the degree of personal freedom were more important than wealth.

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Find out where the US happiness level ranks compared to other countries here.

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