Economists have always viewed Gross National Product (GNP) as an inadequate measure of welfare or economic progress. Recently they have begun (again) to take happiness seriously. And in 2004 Bhutan became the only country in the world to measure its wellbeing by Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of GNP.
Reasons for our renewed interest in subjective wellbeing include:
- Happiness is basic to human motivation - Advances in neuroscience make happiness objectively measurable, at least in principle. - While income in the developed world has dramatically increased, happiness has not. - Often people’s choices - e.g. what to buy, how many hours to work - do not seem to bring happiness. - Research shows that many other things besides income influence happiness. This has implications for economic policy.
Perhaps none of this would surprise a Buddhist. This paper explores the common ground as well as the inconsistencies between these recent research findings and ancient teachings.