A critical view on GNH

By Dr. David L. Luechauer

1.  The average person on the street and worse the educated of the Business School (Gaeddu College) simply lack any deep understanding of what GNH means.  They can parrot the principles and espouse the mantra but look at their daily decision making and living and you will quickly find that consumerism and obtaining the things they are now seeing and hearing about on the net, web, movies, etc has them firmly in their grip.  They have to understand that GNH is a practical – daily way of life not just an economic measure that would have real and significant impacts that are “negative” as well as positive.  I have often wondered if GNH were fully explained and put up to a real vote of the people, whether or not it would be supported.


2. No India, no GNH it’s that simple. Right now Bhutan is fundamentally a welfare state or put another way Bhutan is like a trust fund baby living off the largess and generosity of India. If India cut the donations, pulled the cheap labor, and made Bhutan stand on its own two feet, what would happen? Hence, I find it rather preposterous that Bhutan’s leaders go out and tell the rest of the world how to develop economically.


3. Until it is in place and shown to be working, clearly documented that the people of the world want what Bhutan has accomplished, GNH will remain a platitude. It is a hard concept to disagree with but to actually see it work and in practice is another matter. Bhutan needs to practice what it preaches before going out and preaching.


4.  At the end of the day GNH, GDP, and everything else are largely just concepts discussed by relatively minor percentages of the world population.  The real issue is not what we measure or how we measure it, the real issue is how people behave.  For example, many countries from Singapore to the USA have much more ingrained and in many cases “legalized” principles / practices which are more reflective of GNH even though those countries still measure GDP, GNP and the like.


5. The King said a line which most influenced me during my whole stay in Bhutan, which was  “Bhutan cannot afford to create or inherit first world problems and solve them with third world resources.”  I wonder if many leaders are reading the papers in Bhutan – murder, alcoholism, domestic violence, unemployed youths creating gangs in the capital on and on and on. I have got news for you given what my 22 year old son observed in Gaeddu, Thimphu and Paro. You are about 1 to 2 years from an explosion of drug use and alcohol abuse. So the question is this why if the pursuit of GNH is so great, why are your social ills escalating at such a rapid rate. Moreover, as a percent of population, Bhutan already is showing higher rates of social dysfunction than many countries who measure GDP.


6.  Despite the promulgation of leftist writers not everyone in GDP countries is miserable, depressed and unhappy. Moreover, not everyone on the planet believes happiness to be our prime aim in life as all the world’s major religions would suggest that service to God or a Higher Power is our purpose on this planet and that there is no guarantee of happiness. Thomas Jefferson even wrote that our right was the pursuit of happiness not obtaining happiness.

Finally, Bhutanese leaders need to realize that there is a big difference between a hand out and a hand up.  However, in either case, you probably won’t get them by telling everyone else how bad they are doing.


  The writer was a lecturer at the Gaeddu College and is now teaching at the Krannert School of Management in the USA.

Check Also

The Urgency of Palestinian Statehood

MELBOURNE – It is time for Israel to recognize the force of the rapidly growing …


  1. GNH is a noble concept. I’ll leave at that. We Bhutanese are the happy lot. We might have some social problems, which society doesn’t? But that’s not the excuse, we strive to eradicate all this problems. GNH comes in there. Sir, I only regret that ur 22 year old son, on who’s findings u brought this criticism, missed out the better part of what Bhutan has to offer. We wish u luck, for our happiness depends on ur happiness. We are the world.


  2. Dont try to pour your only thought to influence whole nation with negativity.whatever country has achieved  and done so far seems to be pouring in the drain by critics TL.I feel there should be also guideline on how to write news otherwise there is no check and balance.This news paper is always on personal level and i see one day, this news paper will drag country in the drain. Criticising is the easiest job. No wander for your news.

    • you TALK ABOUT DRAGING the country in the drain,,,well my dear friend its already dragged. how can you justify that this article is on a personal level,,, this article is a view and where by if u ask your self truly and if ur inner instinct replies you truly,,,it will say to you that yes this article what so ever it says ..it says right,,, 


    Though I was confused with the concept of GNH, this article made it worse.

  4. How aptly put–we are really blinded by this GNH crap…..and really fed up with all the bullshit and especially the way our PM espouses the idea whereas the ground realities is just the opposite…. may be he and many others like him the GNH applies,whereas vast majority of our people are grinding in poverty

    • Since you call it a crap, I assume you have understood GNH quite well. Could you therefore tell us which Domain do not correlate or do not address the poverty issue? Or which indices do you think are not right? Could you tell us the alternative GDP model which address the poverty directly? 

      • pema is right,,,and yes mr Phuntsho i will reply you in his behalf. Ask your self once in a day at least before you go to the bed,,, am in happy being what u r right now..is my positing stabilizing that i can guarantee a better future for my kids,..is it of any assurance assurance that tomorrow i will suffer form cancer and i will die untreated…. is it possible that 2marrow u get a pain in ur head and u die without even knowing the case,,is it not possible that tomorrow there will be 100 more land scam and u wont be aware of it,,, man dont ask justification,,,, ask ur self the questions and u will get the answers,,

  5. The developmental projects include everything that he has mentioned. GNH principles do not hinder such developmental programs. However, the gist of his article here is that he says there is no ‘freedom to revolt’, otherwise we have media who exposes everything naked to the public. The revolt thing sounds quite dangerous to me. Just because they fought American War of Independence, do we have to?

    I agree we have so many problems; crime, unemployment, lack of infrastructures, basic services, etc. but developmental programs are trying to address all these issues and I strongly believe these can be controlled and prevented. Yes they are a developed country but their crimes are unimaginable; mass shooting every now and then, rapes every now and then, suicides every now and then, many people sleeping in the streets, etc. I hope we do not get there. 

    • can u accept two jobs at a time ? can u accept that ur son / daughter marries two people at a time. I guess ur answer is NO…so how can u support two completely different topics at  a time,,at one has u indirectly say u support GNH ( Yes u should if it was implemented in reality) adn other end u say u agree we have so many problems:_ crime unemploymen tetc etc..so if u accept the second thing that atomically means there is no GNH so how can u be concentrically..GNH and those problems dont come in a same circle,,,if GNH existed like our top leaders say to the outer world then the problems u say exist should not be there at all…….

      • Was that a mantra? Sanskrit? Could you tell me in plain english please.  I can understand Dzongkha, Sharchop and Khengkha. I can comprehend your message if you speak to me in any of these languages. 

  6. How dare the writer wrote this and how dare this newspaper publish this news? This is truly anti-national act and our nation should not tollerate such criticism. The newspaper is totally going against the vision of our fourth and fifth Druk Gyalpos. Is this the way to exercise the right of information and freedom of press? Perhaps the ex-lecturer wrote because he left Bhutan after coming into conflict of our nation. Which country does not have social problems? Our social problems are very minimal. We have no conflicts and violence of critical nature. I can only say that this newspaper will some day bring chaos in the society.

    • That is why  there is need to come up  news reporting guidelines and those news which goes personnal level and policy matter should be scrutinised.Otherwise, i can only foresee worse impact of  these type of news

    • Then mr Truth why dont u lodge a case upon anti-national act carried out by the Newspaper…can u com out in the public and openly  say that this is not accpetable in our county…i bet u cant even utter a word outside then u claim to be a very nation concerned man… this article is not an anti-national act article,,it is a thought by some Nobel men who served bhutan for few years and what he observed…….he observed what many other observed too … others s couldn’t say …and he said,,that as simple as it can be….more then 50% will accept this article saying that it is true what he has written,,,and u talk about anti-national act….come on ..grow up .  

  7. Bhutan has no right to tell the rest of the world how to live when our people are dirt poor and leaders are fully immersed in corruption. Stop this GNH crap.

  8. if there is no enemy, we will never armed ourself. there is always two side of the coin. but here, i appreciate the bhutanese for bring out the article. now we know how to defend ourself, what this people think about our precious GNH. why and how they are justify to defame it. guys, we have always been together  we will always be together. no matter how many of such kind of DR. David pass our way, we shall kick them. palden drukpa gyalo. long live our king.

  9. Dear Dr.David,
    I appreciate your critical perspective and the deconstruction of the whole fanfare and hype surrounding GNH. No India, no GNH is a hard truth that Bhutan and its leader need to give a serious thought. Our economy has been almost enslaved by our over dependance on India. There is no denying interdependance in this day of globalization, however, when we start to import everything and anything from simple daily consumable as vegetable, rice to machines then it poses a big question as to whether Bhutan can ever be self reliant by producing it ourselves. Now how does that correlate to GNH pillar of sustainable socio economic development when the very basis of sustainability is at threat from being enslaved and possibly a potential disaster?
    Growing social nuisance and menace from the wayward and confused young minds is another indication that things are not going quite right with our education system and how the so called matured adults and parents approach the way we pass down the well preserved indigenous wisdom and value system to our children. However despite all the best of efforts from the Bhutanese education system and the parents these are bound to happen with sudden explosion of information and media in the last one decade, where there is mixture garbage and useful information. I guess these are challenges that the government seriously needs to think about managing more effectively. All is not doom and gloom as the writer has projected regarding the state of affairs with our youth, I would recommend caution before you start generalizing the whole of the country with just few years of stay in one little town. I still believe having traveled across the country that there still exist youth who are resourceful, respectful and with humility. Having said that, yes Bhutan needs to straighten out many things before we start sermonizing to the rest of the world on how to implement this utopic idea of happiness which is abstract at worst and noble and a worthy pursuit at best, because if everyone is honest to ourselves, we will come to a common ground of agreement that every country or an individual is doing whatever they are doing – be it peace, business or war – for certain sense of happiness and satisfaction and peace of mind at the end of the day. Well written piece of article and I extend you my appreciation. I would like to earnestly urge our government and leaders that it is now time that we seriously straighten our certain flaws in system such as issues of economy structure, governance and corruption and not just focus on advertising Bhutan as this non-existent shangrila of “GNH”. Nevertheless I truly believe if there is one piece of land on this planet earth where we can make this experiment called GNH work than one of them is Bhutan. The citizens of Bhutan should be equally critical of GNH just as the intellectuals and researchers from within the country and abroad not because we try to find faults but because we are “Pro GNH” and truly believe we can make it happen. With the blessings of our guardian deities and the blessings of the lineage of wise masters, teachers, monarchs and leaders from the past, may the light of GNH come out of the dusty shelves, cupboards, realm of intellectual speculation, macbooks, laptops, expensive seminars and conferences, colorful kabneys and shine on the darkness of modern day material and spiritual challenges. Pelden Drukpa Lhagello. Long live Bhutan.

  10. We, Bhutanese only like  to hear  good things. Come on, wake up to reality. Everything is not rosy like we want to believe. There is nothing wrong with the article, he expressed only truth. I admire his courage.

  11. GNH prevails for big people and poor people remain poorer..so this is GNH in our country. Inorder to have GNH all must be same and equal….

  12. People who do not appreciate this article are frogs in the pound. They do not know the critical perspective and radical approaches to the status qua. They want ti live and die the same, praising what is already there. I request to them would be to study some literature on History, Political science, Philosophy.

  13. I agree with Dr. David L. Luechauer

  14. majority of the Bhutanese are farmers and yet we do not produce enough food to feed our small population. We are totally dependent on India for survival. So who are we to lecture on happiness to the world. GNH is not a priority for our people. Economic development is what we need. Lord Buddha said to to be satisfied and happy one has to give up desire. JYT – please do not try to replace Buddha. DPT has overwhelming majority in the Parliament, yet JYT has done nothing to promote rule of law. You cannot promote democracy without the rule of law, just as you cannot promote happiness without the rule of law. JYT has to know his priority.

  15. It looks like author of the article is a foreign citizen, otherwise the true Bhutanese can not have that level of guts to criticize the noble works of kings and the PM.

    • yes u r right…as a true Bhutanese would be so coward like u i guess that he cant even speak truth when there is a right to speak the truth….dont give the crap about true Bhutanese,,if some any one is a true Bhutanese then they should have released this article by their name a long time ago,,why didnt any one do ,,because they are afraid,,so when public are afraid of speaking the truth then how come that there is GNH ..so yes GNH is a crap story..where people cant even express their true feelings. 

  16. The GNH model is being appreciated and more and more people are keen to adopt this practices. I agree some of our leader may be preaching/talking to a direction, which may not be what our Kings have meant it. 
    But GNH is not as you believe it is – ignoring the economic part (as you say- “If India cut the donations, pulled the cheap labor, and made Bhutan stand on its own two feet, what would happen?” . GNH is a balanced policies (inclusive of the economic policy).  
    I would like to give a second thought to your article, but the fact that you have to base your 22year old son’s view to justify your statement and NOT any research, makes it seriously lacking credibility. 

  17. Throughout history human beings have sought to improve their external situation, yet despite all our efforts we are no happier. Basically it is do with our state of mind. Our Bhutanese children are made to learn things which have no relevance to GNH. They are taught that from the point of view of material development modeled by westerners. The type of education that we impart to our children will have far reaching impact in our GNH soceity and constant research on quality of education will determine our fulfillment and aspiration.

  18. Dr. David L. Luechauer or whatever!
    1.You got the wrong concept of GNH.
    2.You have convergent thinking.
    3.Through this article you want to label the score with some of our leader.
    GNH is not only about being happy right now. It is also about compromising for future generation and as well being happy right now. You have not seen the all the aspect of GNH. Neither do I claim to have. So your write ups seems to be little bit motivated by hatred towards some of the leaders in Bhutan. I would have appreciated your article if you have genuinely done research on it. You have also taken the opportunity to to show your hatred by criticizing Bhutan. That is political matter.
    There are more people world wide highly qualified and learned then you who appreciates the concept of GNH and are doing research on it.
    All the best. God Bless you. May find peace if you happen to read this post.

  19. You just go around the offices and listen to what most of our civil servants commonly talk about and are always after – high-dsa-paying trainings abroad, short-cut promotions, opportunities to earn extra incomes even through dubious means, etc.etc. Or, you listen to politicians/MPs – more perks, buying-selling properties, constructions, investments, etc, etc. Now, you listen to some of our rural folks, and not surprisingly, they too want more money and materials all in the pursuit of making their lives comfortable and better, and it is rightly so. You know the bottom-line line is that all of us are desperately looking for “more and more” that is directly contradicting ourselves with the philosophy of GNH, a concept that we talk so highly of, when all the while we preach the world to remain self-contended with whatever less or little it has. I think Bhutanese are the biggest hypocrites on this earth, and certainly not the happiest lots.

    I believe and find meaningful more in what our kings, in actions and in real terms, are doing to us to keep us happy, safe and in peace rather than some of us promoting some philosophical concept that the vast majority of Bhutanese do not understand it, and find it even more difficult to implement. I think we Bhutanese must learn to realize and accept what is.

  20. I have just one comment for the author. You have anti-factual proponent, India’s aid is directly proportionate to the GNH in Bhutan. Then I would have one, what would happen if Bhutan creates Bill Gates like genius over night so will GNH prosper?. We must believe that on journey to find happiness one must go through uneasy, rough, harsh, unpleasant situations where our mind as mirror subjective find out the truth of happiness then. Bhutan has just begun to realize the idea of GNH only in recent years, and telling to the world, why not we work together toward GNH, does not arise the question of preach what you practice.

  21. the second point makes the most sense to me. We must really work  hard on becoming self- reliant! just take the case of the vegetable shortage after the INR crisis. I give up on my iPhone 4S and will stick to Nokia Nseries. This article calls for an inward glance at ourselves and practice on the individual level not just in policy or guidelines. We can for our parents have done it: they paid taxes and were able to raise a dozen kids though school and college…

  22. Lets analyze the Gyelpozhing illegal land allotment in the context of GNH. It is apparent that the 4th King issued 9 Kashos on the fair and equitable distribution of land between 1980 and 2003. Almost all the beneficiaries of the illegal allotment according to the ACC report published by The Bhutanese are the PM, ministers, judges and senior bureaucrats. These people are close to the King and in fact most of them are in current high positions because of the blessing of the king. They passionately preach GNH. It is evident that these people preach GNH to the economically disadvantaged people of Bhutan while they promote material wealth for themselves in an unethical ways. Dr. David L. Luechauer has pointed out that the advocates of GNH have to practice what they preach. Is it fair to assume that GNH is used as a mask to cover their shady deals and policies to enrich themselves at the expense of the ignorant people? It is only a matter of time when Bhutan’s model of GNH become mockery on the world stage. The time to challenge and discredit GNH is now so constructive criticism could be provided to our leaders.

  23. Dr. David L. Luechauer way of critical review of GNH is far worse than any other lecturers in GCBS.

  24. GNH is like a second dharma but Some corrupted and influential people are making fun of it and never living upto the principles.Bhutan should live up to it and never play politics in the name of GNH(Gross national happiness).

  25. GNH is like a second dharma but Some corrupted and influential people are making fun of it and never living upto the principles.Bhutan should live up to it .

  26. Gyelposhing case and GNH is a perfect match, because those who got land at throw prices i.e. Nu.5.50 per sqft. were very happy. Out of 700,000 people 99 were very happy to get the land which works out to 0.014% which is quite substantial. So we should organize such land allotments frequently.

  27. This Birla guy’s brain is up his a…..

  28. Vijay K Shrotryia

    I read these 6 points with interest.  I dont think that Bhutan should follow western model of development.  As it is advocating, to me there seems to be no problem with Happiness driven development model.  But it has to be convincingly communicated to the young population which has to start thinking and relate it with their upbringing as well.  This might be a great challenge.  Bhutan has to concentrate on providing good education (as per their standards not as per the standards of so called developed world) and health facilities. Development of small businesses has to be the focus for industrial policy.  

    It is really unbelievable that it is ‘about 1 to 2 years from an explosion of drug use and alcohol abuse’.  Further I don’t really think that the experiences of Gedu College (if at all true) can really be generalised to the whole nation. 

    Yes Bhutan has to learn many things but it also has many things to let the world learn from it. 

    VK Shrotryia

  29. I have just been wandering about the GNH philosophy in a country where there is a catagorisation of its citizens into different forms .  They are deprived of their basic rights like adult franchise and employment in civil service. In a GNH society every body will be equal and there should be no discrimination. Dr. David we do believe in class less society . One of the reason for the drugs has been due to the frustrated youths due to lack of initiative to resolve the above issues  

  30. Our influential people propounding GNH are more confused than the ordinary Bhutanese farmers. The so called domains are based on western economy theory which in turn are based on the extreme of eternalism. If our ideas are based on a limited point of view and disconnected from deeper meaning of wisdom mind, they can cause our negative qualities to increase. Whoever pretends to know and understand GNH, yet does not practice is like a deaf musician who can not make others happy but can not hear his own music. It is also likened to those who can hear and see water but can not quench thier thrust.

  31. There is some truth prevailing with what . Dr. wrote.. we dont see problems with our eyes and we have to wait for the foreigner to say things… i think we have to accept the problems at face value …. nation building starts with accepting criticism and working towards it… he is right about drugs, unemployment, growing inequality… rich consumes 20 times more than poor that was in 2007 (see poverty report)……. dont forget we are so much dependent on India…. a bhutanese kid was killed in bhutanese soil by a truck accident and whole strike drama by the truckers in India… this is simple to think but sooner or later we will be left hungry and dry with even a week long  strike in India leaves us hungry….. Our GNH policy should begin at home. 

  32. nar bdr. gurung

    Prospective of GNH entirely lies on how honest we are in thinking and actions. To me GNH is just changing our attitude turning negatives to positives, trying to address national problems for the people to have graceful and delightful lives. And GNH should have hands to embrace people from all walks of life irrespective of class, social status, religions, cast and creed. Now we live in 21st century, there should be unity in diversity if this essence is missing than GNH will not become successful. In the GNH world weshoud learn to be pragmatic rather than advocating so many abstract things which people find difficult to comprehend. Okay if someone is there to give us suggestions or if they are critical we need to accept the facts and then do necessary corrections. In this way we can have better and practical GNH.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *