The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being

By Derek Bok | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Deep in the Himalayas, wedged between India and China, sits the tiny Buddhist nation of Bhutan, a land marked by tall mountains, deep forests, and glacier-fed rivers and streams. All but inaccessible to foreign visitors, Bhutan was virtually unknown to the outside world until the 1960s. Its poverty, illiteracy, and infant mortality ranked among the worst of all nations. In 1972, however, something unusual happened in this remote country that caught the attention of people around the globe. A new king, Jigme Singye Wanchuk, declared that from this point forward “Gross National Happiness” rather than Gross National Product would be his nation's principal yardstick for measuring progress. Speaking of Bhutan's five-year development plans, he declared: “If, at the end of the plan period, our people are not happier than they were before, we should know that our plans have failed.”1

The details of Bhutan's new policy are not yet fully worked out, but the following “Four Pillars” of Gross National Happiness sum- marize the main components.2

Good governance and democratization: Although the people of Bhutan seemed more than pleased with their ruler, King Wanchuk concluded that democracy offered the surest guarantee of happi- ness over the long run. Against considerable opposition from his subjects, the popular monarch gradually moved his country to- ward democracy by insisting on shedding his royal powers in favor of an elected assembly, an executive council of ministers chosen by the assembly, and a separate system of courts. His son, who has

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The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: What Investigators Have Discovered 9
  • 2: The Reliability of Research on Happiness 32
  • 3: Should Policy-Makers Use Happiness Research? 45
  • 4: The Question of Growth 63
  • 5: What to Do about Inequality 79
  • 6: The Threat of Financial Hardship 99
  • 7: Relieving Suffering 124
  • 8: Marriages and Families 139
  • 9: Education 156
  • 10: The Quality of Government 179
  • 11: The Significance of Happiness Research 204
  • Notes 213
  • Index 247
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