Happiness is … Bhutan

Recognise this street corner? I suspect not unless you’ve been to the Himalayan country of Bhutan and more accurately, its capital city named Thimpu.

This buddhist nation is quite unlike any other in that most government policies are set with the populations happiness in mind and not the GDP of the nation.

Hence, it wasn’t until 1999 that television was introduced as, until that time, it wasn’t felt that it would make the people any happier. Advertising is also banned since the rise in consumerism was also felt to be detrimental to the good of the people.

The traffic island in the picture above used to have the country’s one and only traffic light but that was recently removed because it did little to make the people happier. Bhutanians are happier seeing a police officer do the work instead.

Clearly, these policies have had a noteable effect on the profitability of the nation, for wont of a better phrase. People, despite the happiness policies, are worse off than many of their counterparts throughout the Himalayas.

A lesson though for the rest of the world though. Despite their relative poverty, the government and people of Bhutan are steadfast in their belief that protection of the environment is paramount to their success. Whilst other developing nations to their east and west (China and India) develop a commercialised future with considerable environmental impact, Bhutan’s policies reflect a wish to protect their natural environment, simply because a beautiful environment makes the people happy.

Are maintaining the happiness of the people and improving a nation’s wealth mutually incompatible?