Good on the BBC for its website focusing on the science of happiness. I love its suite of video clips that make links between personal wellbeing, social life and spirituality, and particularly find the interview with Bhutan’s Home and Cultural Affairs Minister to be compelling.
Bhutan’s may be the only current governing body to be making decisions based on whether something will contribute to Gross Domestic Happiness (GNH); they decided to get rid of their sole traffic light, for example, restoring their traffic cop as the lights left people more frustrated than not! However, ongoing evaluations of happiness are gathering apace; the UN, for example, regularly checks in with staff to find out about their levels of satisfaction. As a Downing Street adviser claims, it won’t be long before the UK government will adopt some such similar indicator to GNH. This is excellent news. GDP is rubbish as an accurate reflection of national progress and wellbeing, as ecological economists have long argued, because it externalises a whole range of costs such as pollution and impoverished social relations. The incomes of divorce-law practices and contaminated-land-restoration companies, for example, contribute to GDP. Which is not to say, of course, that divorce and land restoration are necessarily bad things, but we shouldn’t be including them when measuring so-called progress.