This Country Put Happiness Before Economy, But Did It Work?

In Bhutan, the pursuit of happiness is more important than the pursuit of prosperity. But is it really what it seems?

Most countries focus on industrial output to measure their worth,  boasting their high GDPs (Gross Domestic Product). But that's not the case in Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom tucked between India and China. Bhutan focuses instead on a concept they call GNH, or Gross National Happiness.

Often cited at the 'most authentic country in the world,' Bhutan is often seen as "a magic time machine," and it has a long history of isolationism in attempts to preserve its unique identity. After defeating Tibetan forces and feuding warlords in the 16th century, Bhutan's leader unified the country and cultivated a unique culture to differentiate itself from warring powers. A distinct Bhutanese identity emerged which emphasized a communal relationship with nature and a lifestyle centered around Buddhism.

Bhutan avoided globalization and preserved its society in isolation for centuries. As the rest of the world modernized, Bhutan still had no currency, telephones, hospitals, or paved roads. It wasn't until the late 1960s that Bhutan cracked open its doors to the outside world and started to focus on development. But instead of hurriedly adopting western reforms, Bhutan's beloved Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck invented Gross National Happiness to guide his country's progress. 


Learn More:

Telegraph: Profile: The King of Bhutan - The prince who brought satellite TV to Shangri-La

Aljazeera: My Country is My Family: Resettling Bhutan's Refugees

Time: Bhutan: The Last Authentic Place on Earth