In a recent trip to Thimphu, New York Times reporter Seth Mydans spent some time with Kinley Dorji, Bhutan’s secretary of information and communications.
Bhutan, of course, is known around the world for its king’s suggestion in the 1970s to pursue “gross national happiness.”
However, these days, this utopian ideal is turning into measurable, quantifiable, political science.
Bhutan, of course, is a tiny, mountainous country of 700,000 people wedged between India and China, and is famous for its isolation. It only allowed television in the country in 1999.
Dorji told the Times: “Bhutan’s story today is, in one word, survival. Gross national happiness is survival; how to counter a threat to survival.”
So as a way to stay relevant, Bhutan produced a complex model of happiness, which features the four pillars, the nine domains and the 72 indicators of happiness.
Reports the Times:
Specifically, the government has determined that the four pillars of a happy society involve the economy, culture, the environment and good governance. It breaks these into nine domains: psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance, each with its own weighted and unweighted G.N.H. index.
All of this is to be analyzed using the 72 indicators. Under the domain of psychological well-being, for example, indicators include the frequencies of prayer and meditation and of feelings of selfishness, jealousy, calm, compassion, generosity and frustration as well as suicidal thoughts.
“We are even breaking down the time of day: how much time a person spends with family, at work and so on,” Mr. Dorji said.
How long before Gretchen Rubin and the Bhutanese get together to build a Facebook application to determine happiness?