The economics of happiness
championed a different approach to gauge the growth and progress of a nation. Instead of gross domestic product (GDP), Bhutan has turned the world’s attention towards gross national happiness (GNH) as a measure of a nation’s development. The Gross National Happiness Index rejects the idea of material wealth as the sole indicator of development. Instead, it broadens the base for measurement of development and includes in it several other aspects of human life like culture, mental health, community cohesion and environment etc. Succinctly put, it calls for a balanced and broad-based approach to defining development.
What are the factors that bring happiness? Certainly, income matters. You have to have some income to meet your needs and support your family. An empty stomach does not make a happy person. If you are unable to feed your baby or buy medicine to treat your child’s ailments, you cannot be a happy person. It is necessary that the public policies that are made ensure that the people’s basic needs are met. For instance, people must get health care, clean water, a clean environment and education – which are some of the building blocks of happiness.
According to the World Happiness Report of the Earth Institute of Columbia University, unemployment is a major killer of happiness. “A bad job is better than no job”, the report says. Employment provides income. It also helps people realise their social needs through networking. It is, therefore, essential that the state puts employment generation at the top of its public policy agenda.
This does not mean that income and financial well-being can guarantee happiness. Happiness calls for a judicious environment on which financial well-being works. A level playing field for everyone, equality of opportunity and effective and speedy judicial remedies against unfairness are the basic requirements of such a judicious environment. Societies that are riddled with corruption, and which disregard rule of law in governance fail to bring happiness to their people. Lack of meritocracy and deep socio-economic inequities among people do not make a happy society.
The creation of a happy society needs the gulf between the rich and the poor to be bridged. “Happiness is equality”, says Prof Robert Skidelsky of Warwick University. High level of inequality among people diminishes their happiness. A big palatial