Dr David’s critique of Bhutan’s GNH story- 2

Dr David L Luechauer

In this second part of the interview with The Bhutanese Dr David L Luechauer stressed that he is neither for nor against GNH as a philosophy.  He feels that like all philosophies GNH has its strengths and weaknesses and the problems he sees is in its implementation and interpretation.

 

1. Despite your criticism hasn’t Bhutan’s international profile increased due to GNH? 

 

GNH is a topic that is getting some press coverage but even that is minor.  Honestly, except in some academic circles and a few media outlets there is neither a view of GNH or for that matter Bhutan.  I just gave a leadership presentation to 50 Chief Financial Officers of major companies. I was introduced as just having returned from Bhutan.  You have to understand, these were men & women, who held the senior financial position in companies worth anywhere from 100 – 500 million dollars.  Less than 5 could even place Bhutan on a map (I am not really proud of that but it is a fact).  In terms of GNH, the typical response was oh yes, aren’t they the people trying to be happy or something like that.  The even fewer who had any substantive knowledge of GNH basically had the same impression – it is nothing more than environmentally friendly socialism.  In my experience teaching and lecturing around the world – Business leaders, the people who really create jobs and drive economies, neither knows nor particularly cares about either GNH or Bhutan.

I think the average person on the street that we have met on our travels back home from Bhutan and since we have been home is more interested in the King and Queen than in GNH.

 

2. The GNH philosophy in part or full is supported by countries like the UK, France, Japan etc where some forms of happiness measurement tools and indicators are being put in place inspired by Bhutan. They must have found something right with GNH?

 

The presumption that Bhutan has inspired this is not true.  Measures of happiness and other forms of social well being go back many decades and reference to such lifestyles can even be found in many ancient holy books and religions.  Men and women and even governments have espoused and tried to practice the principles which are at the core of GNH for centuries. Both the Quakers (Society of Friends) and Shakers in the USA advocated and actually practiced much of that which is contained in GNH in 1700’s.

Even the USA practices GNH with the application and enforcement of strict laws on everything from labor practices to trash disposal to civil rights.  Measuring things is not the same as doing them.  More importantly, however, is measuring the right thing, in the right way, and at the right time.

Measuring happiness in the aggregate is fraught with numerous problems and then attributing much meaning to those results could lead to even more problems.  Instead of measuring “happiness” how about we measure significant things like a nation’s degree of tolerance and protection of civil rights, the amount of philanthropy displayed by the populace, the extent to which a nation actually creates and enforces laws that provide: consumer protections, protections for children, basic freedoms of speech and other civil liberties.

What matters is that a government provides people with all the protections to pursue happiness but whether they actually attain happiness or not, is not a concern for the government.

In the final analysis, I am glad those countries are measuring the happiness of their people.  The real question will be what they do with the results.  Anyone can conduct a study or take a poll, a few people can accurately interpret the results, and even fewer still actually do anything meaningful with the findings.

Case in point, I handed RUB a major and important study that probably has far greater implications and import in the short and long run than whether or not Bhutan pursues GNH.  In fact, I would argue that Bhutan’s ability to pursue GNH at all may be largely and ultimately impacted by how it handles its current alcohol and soon to be drug problem at its Universities not to mention among its high school students, unemployed and under employed youth.  So far, what I have seen and heard out of RUB in general and GCBS in particular has me alarmed that key officials are locked in denial and ignorance that could prove catastrophic.

It’s not the measure, it’s not the interpretation, the real question is whether or not France & Japan and others who may measure happiness have the political will, the resources, and the social support to do anything meaningful with the results.

 

3. Has GNH become an intellectual concept?

 

Yes, it has largely become an elitist concept embraced by fundamentalist environmentalist, left wing liberals, and economists with Marxist, Socialist, Communistic leanings.  GNH is discussed in academic hallways, high end political conferences held in swanky resorts or conference centers by people who likely live lifestyles far superior to the average person in the street or in the village. I doubt rather seriously whether or not the average Bhutanese farmer or village cares whether the USA/Bhutan/France/Japan measure GNP, GDP, or GNH.

The literature on GNH drips of socialism which is not a big surprise since most of the economists who seem to be writing about GNH have strong leftist leanings.  I am a bit afraid that pushing a socialist or socialistically grounded model of economic development will lead to negative social and economic results that will push Bhutan even further behind the rest of the world in terms of development and standard of living for the people of Bhutan.

In short, GNH is a competing philosophy, a hot topic among a few.  It offers nice platitudes to debate and upon which to pass generally meaningless and toothless UN resolutions about which some people can feel good.

 

4. As an educationist what is your view on the success of the Ministry of Education’s efforts to take GNH to students across the country? 

 

My family and I had the opportunity to meet the minister of education on numerous occasions.  I can’t think of a finer man.  The only concern I might have is that GNH must be taken and taught as an option not as a command.  In short, children should be taught to analyze, assess and be given the freedom to critique GNH as model particularly as they move from grades 6 – 10/12 instead of having GNH forced upon them as a socio, political, cultural and economic imperative.

They should be taught the underpinnings of the model, the way the model impacts behavior, and given an honest and fair perspective on other models of economic development.

Unfortunately, I’ve read two massive handbooks of articles on GNH and they all paint the west or other models as being comprised of people who are miserable, mean-spirited, depressed, anxious, and the like.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If GNH is taught as one of many economic models to which a person in Bhutan could subscribe it would be marvelous and acceptance of GNH would be sincere.  If GNH is taught as the only acceptable model, then this is nothing more than indoctrination and socialization.  It would be antithetical to democracy, but, and through no fault of the Minister’s, I fear this may happening.

 

5. In your article on GNH you talk of the importance of ‘truth telling to power’ and how there is little of it in Bhutan. Can you please elaborate?  

 

People are very reluctant to speak up and advocate alternative points of view on any number of issues.  I saw this all the time with the students at GCBS they were too afraid to confront either professors or administrators about much needed reforms.  Conversely, I do give much credit to the press in Bhutan.  They are willing to report on less than flattering stories and raise serious questions but even that is done cautiously.  You have to understand, from my perspective, the conflict averse nature of the populace leads them into a tacit acceptance of the way things are instead of a passionate commitment to working for how things should or could be.  I think people in Bhutan are afraid to say they are not happy, in public forums. Yet observing their behavior you can see they are not happy and that is why there are increasing social problems such as alcoholism, drug use, violence and the like.  The real problem, however, is that people say one thing and do another.

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39 comments

  1. I think freedom of expression too is evolving slowly. And look how bold the media had become over a short period of time though they still have some reservations. I think freedom with responsibility is on the rise. People need to understand that the right to exercise freedom (speech or opinion) should come with equal duty of care and responsibility. 
    I really do not envy the freedom and civil rights that are exemplified by our neighbors – where there are chaos every now and then, where there are protests, demonstrations and killings of people every now and then, where in the name of freedom many innocent people are victimized. There is no need for us to rush. There is no urgency. Thank you Dr. Luechauer. 

  2. It is high time that we bhutanese be true to ourselves. As Dr David truly said that we bhuatnese say one thing and do another. I think it is high time that we revisit to grass root and fix problem. GNH must at the initial be instilled to our own people and every bhutanese must know what is GNH. It is all about being not greedy and appreciating what you have.

  3. Dr. David, Alcohol problems in Bhutan! Wah. How about Drug cartels network in the US.Poor academician. See the uprising against US in the Middle East and even in Asia because of your unashamed attitude.

    You are always undermining GCBS as source of reference, were they impolite to you and your family?. As you sow so shall you reap! The US embassies are in trouble in the Muslim world.

  4. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the content of this article, you must admit that it is refreshing to see the media opening up in Bhutan! Very different than when I first arrived 10 years ago…. this type of article would certainly not be possible. Keep up the critical coverage ‘thebhutanese’.

  5. Lhakpa Sherpa

    What all Dr. David mean to say is develop your economy, give employment, fight corruption, respect human rights, clean your towns and cities, avoid gang fights, work hard.
    After all, David knows that America is deducting tax from his salary & professional fees and giving it to Bhutan. But when he came to Bhutan, he found that Bhutanese are simply not hard working, they are hypocrites. And of course, we cannot deny all this facts. Bhutanese are always accustomed to being praised by foreigners – irrespective of what they are. But sometime, we also learn to take constructive criticism for our own good.
    There is some reason why many donor countries are pulling out of our country. It’s not that their fund is exhausted, nor they are not in s position to fund. But, some donor countries have found that Bhutan is behaving too smart to fund from their tax cut.

  6. Lhakpa Sherpa

    What all Dr. David means to say is develop your economy, give employment, fight corruption, respect human rights, work hard, clean your towns and cities, avoid gang or street fights.
    After all, David knows that America is deducting tax from his salary & professional fees and giving it to Bhutan. But when he came to Bhutan, he found that Bhutanese are simply not hard working, they are hypocrites. And of course, we cannot deny all this facts. Bhutanese are always accustomed to being praised by foreigners – irrespective of what they are. But sometime, we also learn to take constructive criticism for our own good.
    There is some reason why many donor countries are pulling out of our country. It’s not that their fund is exhausted, nor they are not in s position to fund. But, some donor countries have found that Bhutan is behaving too smart to fund from their tax cut.

  7. Thre cheers to the author….i would agree with the line ‘ People say one thing and do another”… so true about our Politicians (PM and MPs).. PM tells the young generations in school and colleges to practice GNH but he is busy grabbing lands, and no scam is there where his name is not involved (alledgely according to media report)..
    I hope our leaders would change with the need of time and gone are those days where they could send a guy to buy pan at town or send a staff from office to wash his car by wangchu… we need to adopt the changes and change ourselves accordingly….
    People can’t be happy if there is no fire in the oven.

  8. Promoters of GNH claim that this brilliant policy development tool intends to provide basic amenities to its people lifting them from poverty and backwardness adding a touch of cultural integration and social value system, which I feel, is nothing new. Aren’t Governments all over the world promising to do that with or without this humbug of social epiphany attached to their manifestos? 
    Another flaw which he rightly pointed out is that while we shy away from our fear of “Corporate Greed” and stutter along our middle path, the number of years we take to generate the same amount of wealth equates directly to the number of families that would have to content with substandard educational and health services and yes, poverty (never mind the long list of problems that it brings along with it.)
    What we need at this point of nation building is little less talk and a lot more action. For GNH right now is precisely that, a candy floss economic paradigm chiding the West for all the wrong turns it has taken while we are decades away from achieving the same level of  social and economic development  but comfortably competing with them for its side effects. The truth is that GNH or no GNH we still struggle with our daily problems of corruption, indifference and our general tendency to slack away at everything we do and give it the name of GNH.

  9. GNH has really got to do with the social elites for the are benefited by selling GNH to outsiders while depriving many others. One typical example, its like sowing the seeds in an open ground, letting it grow on its own and then telling others how to dig, till, sow, water, manure and nurture it…true Dr David..agree with u… Bhutan has got to do alot instead of shuffling at the backyard and ignore..pretending everything is perfect!

  10. GNH has really got to do with the social elites for they are benefited by selling GNH to outsiders while depriving many others. One typical example, its like sowing the seeds in an open ground, letting it grow on its own and then telling others how to dig, till, sow, water, manure and nurture it…true Dr David..agree with u… Bhutan has got to do alot instead of shuffling at the backyard and ignore..pretending everything is perfect!

  11. The grass is not always greener
      
    As a British volunteer teacher in Bhutan, I’m often asked what life in a ‘developed country’ is like.  Television tends to portray life in countries like mine in one of two ways – either its full of super heroes and villains, or it’s full of wealthy and attractive people, who have plenty of time for leisure and very little difficulties.

    The TV show, ‘Friends’, is the perfect example.  Nobody really works much.  Nobody worries about money.  Nobody gets hurt.  Everybody has a laugh.  A superhero that can fly and stop bullets is an obvious fiction, but the fictional nature of Friends is less obvious and more believable.  The realism makes the lifestyle a seemingly attainable goal.  Nobody in their right mind would aspire to fly or stop bullets, but becoming a ‘Friend’ seems possible, something to aspire to.

    The media in the UK is predominantly aspirational.  In the newspapers, we are shown houses that we can never afford, cars that are beyond our wildest dreams, beauty that is rare but presented as common (and often photoshopped), lifestyles that are beyond our means.  This feeds and fuels the desire to improve oneself by external standards, to become richer, more materialistic, more unique, to stand out from the crowd as a successful person.  If everybody is thinking like this, the economy grows rapidly, because everybody is trying to make more money in order to realise the dreams they are told over and over again to dream.

    Herein lies the foundation of western capitalism; growth.  The economic model that dominates the small world we live in demands endless and unsustainable economic growth from a finite amount of resources.  The capacity for the natural environment to deliver these resources is rapidly diminishing, as global population and demand continue to rise.  The way we do things has to change, but the only people, who don’t seem to accept this truth, are the very people, who have the power to make changes: economists and politicians.

    I find it hard to believe that this is actually the case.  In truth, the authority of the governments of Western Europe (and increasingly the rest of the world), is increasingly becoming undermined by the power of private, profit-orientated commercial banks.  Over and over again, we see these giant corporations on the verge of collapse into bankruptcy because of their profligate behaviour, and the governments step in to bail them out with tax-payer money.  In the so-called ‘’developed’ west, it has now become normal for huge sums of money to flow from the public purse into large corporations via the governments that should be protecting us from such scandalous actions.  In a boom, the banks win.  In a bust, the banks win.  It is said that 20% of the world’s resources are consumed by 80% of the people.  In the UK, it is common to hear that 5% of the people account for 95% of the wealth.  Is this progress?  Is this development?  These inequalities are inevitable outcomes of a debt-based growth-oriented economy.

    When people here ask me about ‘the developed world’, I sometimes sense frustration about the rate of progress in Bhutan; people want the country to be moving faster.  But racing for progress without consideration for natural resources and the health of communities has a brutal effect on a country’s natural capital.  Bhutan’s government seems to have understood this.  Others have not.

    The Island of Borneo once looked like Bhutan – ancient forest from shore to shore, but the thirst for progress and profit led to 50% of the forest being removed and replaced with palm oil plantations.  From a distance it looks like nothing has changed.  The canopy looks healthy, green, leafy and full.  But a closer inspection reveals a semi-desert on its way to a complete desert.  The palm tree is a soil-killer and nothing else grows in its shadow, so the floors of the forest are barren.  In twenty years, the soil will no longer sustain the palms and the illusion of normalcy will have gone – Borneo will be half desert.

    Easter Island in the Pacific is a profound example of what can happen if we live beyond our means in our desire for progress.  A civilised race of people called the Rapa Nui once lived there, but over the centuries they cut down every single tree without considering the consequences.  In the end there was nothing to hold the soil and it all blew into the sea. The island, incapable of supporting life, died.  The people died.  Progress is not always positive.  In this regard, the leadership and restraint shown in managing economic progress by Bhutan is praiseworthy.

    It is often said that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.  A Buddhist would tell me that happiness lies in my ability to enjoy the present moment, and not concern myself with a future that does not yet exist and cannot be predicted.  Living in a ‘developing’ country like Bhutan is exciting, and I savour each and every moment I spend here.  There’s an ascendant atmosphere in this country, an excitement that reminds me of teenage years, when the world seems unbounded and everything is possible.  Democracy is new.  The institutions are still establishing themselves and have not yet petrified into the lumbering old monoliths of their UK equivalents.  The possibilities for reform in education seem tangible, despite the lingering influence of the antiquated Indian curriculum in some subjects.

    This is a thrilling time for Bhutan, and my advice is to take time to enjoy every moment of it.  Why?  Because this journey will almost certainly be more exciting than the final destination.

     

    Contributed by David Green

    Pakshikha MSS

    scribblingdavey@gmail.com

  12. I like it.

  13. I totally agree to Dr. David in his response to the last question. I have come across the same situation when I try to interact with any Bhutanese. There is inherent fear in the populace and they cannot object to any authority  face to face. The Bhutanese are afraid to speak openly to any foreigner, or even a relative or friend who is living away from Bhutan.  There is censorship every where. The laws are not equal and people are not able say which law is applied for what. So they fear, not law but the government. That is why the Bhutanese are afraid to say that they are not happy when GNH survey comes to them.

  14. I commend TheBhutanese for having the courage and passion to bring out thought provoking and sensitive articles and discussions such as this one. I’ve read all the articles/interviews with Dr. David with great interest.

    Just as any individual, Dr. David has the right to express his views on Bhutan or GNH or any other topic under the sun. We must remember that at the end of the day what he says cannot change any facts. Facts will always remain as facts. As readers (leaders, policy makers, policy implementers and common people etc.) it is our responsibility to extract what is applicable from Dr. David’s articles/answers and do something with it to make a positive difference if we really care for our country.

    I agree with many of things that Dr. David has pointed out, but I also disagree with some of his arguments. His observation of the need for us to know the difference between a handout and hand up is true. The “I’m so poor, give me” attitude is also true. And yes it is absolutely true that we Bhutanese must roll up our sleeves and get to work and for once take responsibility for ourselves. C’mon who are we kidding here? It is ourselves and our own children and grandchildren that will suffer if we don’t put our act together now. His remark “charity begins at home” is true. The best example that this saying is not at work in Bhutan yet is the recent response of our PM to the Gyelposhing land issue. He cannot even provide a convincing argument to the case or atleast he could have just admitted that it was a mistake and as a good leader agree to face the consequences. Instead he says he has more important things to do than answer to baseless allegations…Hello? You are the first PM of the country and more than anyone else, you have the responsibility to own up for your mistakes or atleast give a proper explanation for your actions. So we definitely need to practice what we preach. And most important we need to speak up and be the same person in front as well as at the back….that is the only way to bring positive change. Hypocrisy won’t take us far.

    The list of questions that Dr. David has in his Kuensel article of August 11th, if he thinks that the answer is a resounding “NO” for Bhutan. Then that is also the case for many countries in the region…India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. This problem is not only unique to Bhutan. That is why we are called “developing countries”. And he needs to remember that we started development only about four decades ago unlike the countries he is comparing Bhutan with…Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, US…these countries have taken much longer and even centuries to reach where they are. On this whole discussion on GNH and Bhutan preaching about it…I think actually its mostly the westerners that are romanticizing this philosophy, not us. And it is mostly people from the western world that are organizing all these conferences and meetings in fancy places and inviting our government officials. From my personal experience, I can say that every time I am out of Bhutan and I introduce myself as a Bhutanese, it is always the other party that starts talking or asking about GNH, not me. I didn’t realize that documents on GNH protrayed other countries following GNP as miserable, mean, depressed…if this really is true, this is wrong. As Dr. David says, it maybe the case that the principles of GNH was already in practice or tried right from the 1700’s in other countries, but there is no denying that this term or philosophy was coined on Bhutanese soil by our very own fourth King. And it is this particular term or combination of words “Gross National Happiness” that has caught international attention. He cannot generalize that Bhutanese are lazy from his single experience of a short stay in Bhutan in Gedu college. Its unfortunate (if its true) but he should know that there are many hardworking, dedicated Bhutanese working in the government, private sector and rural areas. The Dow and Nikkei maybe important in the US and Japan. But in some developing countries such as ours these things are not relevant at the moment. What matters more to us is GNP and/or GNH.

  15. I commend TheBhutanese for having the courage and passion to bring out thought provoking and sensitive articles and discussions such as this one. I read through all the articles/interviews with Dr. David with great interest.

    Just as any individual, Dr. David has the right to express his views on Bhutan or GNH or any other topic under the sun. We must remember that at the end of the day what he says cannot change any facts. Facts will always remain as facts. As readers (leaders, policy makers, policy implementers and common people etc.) it is our responsibility to extract what is applicable from Dr. David’s articles/answers and do something with it to make a positive difference if we really care for our country.

    I agree with many of things that Dr. David has pointed out, but I also disagree with some of his arguments. His observation of the need for us to know the difference between a handout and hand up is true. The “I’m so poor, give me” attitude is also true. And yes it is absolutely true that we Bhutanese must roll up our sleeves and get to work and for once take responsibility for ourselves. C’mon who are we kidding here? It is ourselves and our own children and grandchildren that will suffer if we don’t put our act together now. His remark “charity begins at home” is true. The best example that this saying is not at work in Bhutan yet is the recent response of our PM to the Gyelposhing land issue. He cannot even provide a convincing argument to the case or atleast he could have just admitted that it was a mistake and as a good leader agree to face the consequences. Instead he says he has more important things to do than answer to baseless allegations…Hello? You are the first PM of the country and more than anyone else, you have the responsibility to own up for your mistakes or atleast give a proper explanation for your actions. So we definitely need to practice what we preach. And most important we need to speak up and be the same person in front as well as at the back….that is the only way to bring positive change. Hypocrisy won’t take us far.

    The list of questions that Dr. David has in his Kuensel article of August 11th, if he thinks that the answer is a resounding “NO” for Bhutan. Then that is also the case for many countries in the region…India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. This problem is not only unique to Bhutan. That is why we are called “developing countries”. And he needs to remember that we started development only about four decades ago unlike the countries he is comparing Bhutan with…Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, US…these countries have taken much longer and even centuries to reach where they are. On this whole discussion on GNH and Bhutan preaching about it…I think actually its mostly the westerners that are romanticizing this philosophy, not us. And it is mostly people from the western world that are organizing all these conferences and meetings in fancy places and inviting our government officials. From my personal experience, I can say that every time I am out of Bhutan and I introduce myself as a Bhutanese, it is always the other party that starts talking or asking about GNH, not me. I didn’t realize that documents on GNH protrayed other countries following GNP as miserable, mean, depressed…if this really is true, this is wrong. As Dr. David says, it maybe the case that the principles of GNH was already in practice or tried right from the 1700’s in other countries, but there is no denying that this term or philosophy was coined on Bhutanese soil by our very own fourth King. And it is this particular term or combination of words “Gross National Happiness” that has caught international attention. He cannot generalize that Bhutanese are lazy from his single experience of a short stay in Bhutan in Gedu college. Its unfortunate (if its true) but he should know that there are many hardworking, dedicated Bhutanese working in the government, private sector and rural areas. The Dow and Nikkei maybe important in the US and Japan. But in some developing countries such as ours these things are not relevant at the moment. What matters more to us is GNP and/or GNH.

  16. I commend TheBhutanese for having the courage and passion to bring out thought provoking and sensitive articles and discussions such as this one. I’ve read all the articles/interviews with Dr. David with great interest.

    Just as any individual, Dr. David has the right to express his views on Bhutan or GNH or any other topic under the sun. We must remember that at the end of the day what he says cannot change any facts. Facts will always remain as facts. As readers (leaders, policy makers, policy implementers and common people etc.) it is our responsibility to extract what is applicable from Dr. David’s articles/answers and do something with it to make a positive difference if we really care for our country.

    I agree with many of things that Dr. David has pointed out, but I also disagree with some of his arguments. His observation of the need for us to know the difference between a handout and hand up is true. The “I’m so poor, give me” attitude is also true. And yes it is absolutely true that we Bhutanese must roll up our sleeves and get to work and for once take responsibility for ourselves. C’mon who are we kidding here? It is ourselves and our own children and grandchildren that will suffer if we don’t put our act together now. His remark “charity begins at home” is true. The best example that this saying is not at work in Bhutan yet is the recent response of our PM to the Gyelposhing land issue. He cannot even provide a convincing argument to the case or atleast he could have just admitted that it was a mistake and as a good leader agree to face the consequences. Instead he says he has more important things to do than answer to baseless allegations…Hello? You are the first PM of the country and more than anyone else, you have the responsibility to own up for your mistakes or atleast give a proper explanation for your actions. So we definitely need to practice what we preach. And most important we need to speak up and be the same person in front as well as at the back….that is the only way to bring positive change. Hypocrisy won’t take us far.

    The list of questions that Dr. David has in his Kuensel article of August 11th, if he thinks that the answer is a resounding “NO” for Bhutan. Then that is also the case for many countries in the region…India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. This problem is not only unique to Bhutan. That is why we are called “developing countries”. And he needs to remember that we started development only about four decades ago unlike the countries he is comparing Bhutan with…Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, US…these countries have taken much longer and even centuries to reach where they are. On this whole discussion on GNH and Bhutan preaching about it…I think actually its mostly the westerners that are romanticizing this philosophy, not us. And it is mostly people from the western world that are organizing all these conferences and meetings in fancy places and inviting our government officials. From my personal experience, I can say that every time I am out of Bhutan and I introduce myself as a Bhutanese, it is always the other party that starts talking or asking about GNH, not me. I didn’t realize that documents on GNH protrayed other countries following GNP as miserable, mean, depressed…if this really is true, this is wrong. As Dr. David says, it maybe the case that the principles of GNH was already in practice or tried right from the 1700’s in other countries, but there is no denying that this term or philosophy was coined on Bhutanese soil by our very own fourth King. And it is this particular term or combination of words “Gross National Happiness” that has caught international attention. He cannot generalize that Bhutanese are lazy from his single experience of a short stay in Bhutan in Gedu college. Its unfortunate (if its true) but he should know that there are many hardworking, dedicated Bhutanese working in the government, private sector and rural areas. The Dow and Nikkei maybe important in the US and Japan. But in some developing countries such as ours these things are not relevant at the moment. What matters more to us is GNP and/or GNH.

  17. Very true, I accept with Dr. David. Happiness is not a new concept, and GNH is just a old wine put in a new bottle. We see the great philosophers of 18 century like Jeremy Bentham talking about it. (Greatest Happiness of the greatest number). Bhutan government instead of preaching GNH to others should indeed try to create the way (means) for its own citizen to be happy. The ends (happess) will always follow the means. 
    Constitution guarantees freedom, bloody constitution is just a sheets of paper which majority of Bhutanese do not know what it means and whats there because Bhutanese schools did not have a subject called as political science until recently available in few colleges.  

  18. Dr.David,
    You failed to understand what is GNH.Better do some in-depth research and write something meaningful. I just feel to laugh at your self bossing article which itself shows how your going to interpret  GNH concept.While GNH originated from Bhutan and if it doesn’t suits you don’t bother us.You go ahead  teaching chief of multimillion company.

  19. Dr.David,
    You failed to understand real meaning GNH.I could easily make out how your going to interpret the concept of GNH from your self bossing answer from the first sentence itself.With your little knowledge on GNH, don’t make us laugh giving rubbish interpretation.If it doesn’t suits u, don’t bother us.You go ahead teaching chief of multimillion company but don’t corrupt their mentality  with your short sighted thinking.

  20. Many apologies for the repeated submission. Moderator, could you please delete repetition. Thank you.

  21. All I want to ask Dr. David L Luechauer is: what is the whole aim and purpose of development activities, economics, capitalism, socialism and GNP etc.? In my view, all these are methods designed to attain happiness as the end/final product. Whether it is achieved or not following the different methods prescribed is another question. Therefore, in essence, shouldn’t happiness be the objective of everything govts., institutions, and people do? If yes, isn’t Bhutan right in getting the end/final objective of the numerous activities human beings perform right? Using bad examples such as events and experiences resulting from a ‘different kind of practice’ to nullify an ‘idea’ that is different from the ‘practice and ideas’ that caused these examples is not only wrong but more than fiction… If you want to have a debate on happiness and GNH please do not hesitate. We can have it here, in this paper of your choosing, but don’t mistake the ills caused by capitalism or socialism for being caused by GNH.
    There is an old saying: ‘a crow feeds on shit. wipes its beaks on the clean, green grass and then calls it dirty’.

  22. The "TRUE" Bhutanese

    Thank you Dr. David for your efforts to teach us what we already know. In Bhutan we have a saying, and it goes “Don’t teach alphabets to the Buddha.” What you seem to be dwelling on are the alphabetical parts which most Bhutanese are aware of. It doesn’t call for a genuis to say the obvious. You seem to be an important person back in your country, so don’t waste your valuable time talking about a concept that is not your own. You are an academician but I would say your arguments are not strong and research based. They are all biased and one-sided, which makes me believe that you are not writing with good intentions. You seem to have some agenda. Very simply put, you don’t seem to understand the difference between “not doing” and “not being able to do”. You did not have in mind that Bhutan is an LDC with a GDP per capita of about 2000 dollars only. You also don’t seem to understand that Bhutan depends on donor aids for about 40% of our developmental activities. Given all this, there is only so much that Bhutan can do on the ground. Your aspirations for our country MAY BE sincere but you need to take a dose of the ground reality (of Bhutan as a poor, resource constrained country) your self before you try to tell others what to do. Bhutan need not necessarily go through the same phases of development like the industrialized countries, nor do we have to make the same mistakes and learn from them. We can learn without making mistakes too. So for God’s sake, keep your alphabets to your self and your clients.

    • Careful Observer

      Yes, please let’s tell the rest of world about what we “can’t do”. Not everything requires money!! We have a health hotline setup that gets repeatedly abused by so many vulgar idiots daily. What does that have to do with our LDC status or our GDP? Nothing… it’s to do with the people’s base attitudes. Is that GNH? Domestic violence is out of control and most women have been beaten so much they actually think it’s acceptable. What does that have to do with our LDC status or our GDP? Nothing… Is that GNH? Have you not seen the ridiculous amounts of trash out on our streets? What does that have to do with our LDC status or our GDP? Nothing… Is that GNH?

      So quit complaining about how we Bhutanese are so poor and that’s why we have problems. THE WHOLE POINT OF GNH is that GDP can’t be measure of everything, so what kind of ridiculous argument are you putting forth now that we have problems because of our low GDP. Aren’t we supposed to have GNH instead??

      Most of our problems have nothing to do with GDP… it’s about the failure of people to actually demand REAL GNH!

  23. Many people like Bonsai plant to keep inside the house but not all the people of the world. A farmer may not like because snakes and other creaturs/insects will give problems. Bhutanese are like bonsai for centuries so it will take time to understand what the Dr. David has said. Some react disagreengly some say he may be right to some extent but no bhutanese will have guts to say Government is wrong because only few high level elight people khow what is GNH no farmer will know what is GNH. It will take time to understand and get their blood thicker and come forward to speak out what is it.

  24. What all Dr. David means to say is build infrastructure, develop your economy, give employment, fight corruption, respect human rights, work hard, clean your towns and cities, avoid gang fights.
    After all, David knows that America is deducting tax from his salary & professional fees and giving it to Bhutan. But when he came to Bhutan, he found that Bhutanese are simply not hard working, they are hypocrites. And of course, we cannot deny all this facts.
    Bhutanese are always accustomed to being praised by foreigners – irrespective of what they are. Even at the slightest criticism, Bhutanese would be provoked, and behave like extremists. But sometimes, we also learn to take constructive criticism for our own good.
    There is some reason why many donor countries are pulling out of our country. It’s not that their fund is exhausted, nor they are not in a position to fund. But, some donor countries have found that Bhutan is behaving too smart to fund from their tax cut. And this smartness has deprived Bhutanese of their daily needs to human rights.
    GNH, though without much enlightenment, has become cult only among people who have enough means and have found reason to live. But, it means nothing to citizens who roam on the streets, alleys and are pushed from pillar to post for want of job. Nobody can be a patriot under hungry stomach can be reasoned as a true philosophy than illusory GNH.
    We painted westerners as mean sprite and materialistic- that too in the GNH book. But, we have to be thankful to this westerners in one thing – many countries like ours are surviving on the means and materials supplied by this mean sprit and materialistic people. In whatsoever language, we may portray them; we can never be as helpful as they have been to many poor countries. We are here chanting GNH, criticizing other as materialistic, yet we look them expectantly as if it’s their obligation to feed us.

    • Lakps,I fully agree with you.GNH is for the haves and the elites society of Bhutan.Not for common  citizens like you and me.

      In reality,GNH SUCKS!!!

    • Lakpha S, you can criticize Bhutan and it’s people as much as you want, but please don’t mislead the public. The only reason donors are pulling out is because, in the last 10 years, our lives have improved a lot because of more revenue earned from our hydro power projects etc. Our donor countries have strict regulations on where their tax dollars go, they don’t provide aid packages just for the sake of it. As our lives keep on improving more and more donors will pull out and will make their aid money available to countries in sub Saharan Africa where the need for aid is far more dire. It has absolutely nothing to do with Bhutanese acting smart as you believe.

  25. We too have lots of idiots, lunatics and fanatic all against the country, the people and the established institutions! We will become like Libya and Egypt very soon at this rate.

    • Like you, I am alarmed as to how how much our people hate their own country, if only it were possible to ship all these unhappy souls out, then maybe we would be able to pursue real GNH in Bhutan.

      • If US or AUS or any developed countries provided visa to come to their country. I doubt there will be any educated lots left in our country. That is why Bhutanese mothers leave behind their infants in serach of greener pasture in US to work as illegal aliens. That is why highly qualified bhutanese civil servants work as cleaners in Australia when they are suppose to study. Why? Simple. They want to live a better life. That is the reality. You seems to have lost track of our country.

  26. I appreciate the author’s critical perspective and his deconstruction of the whole fanfare and hype surrounding GNH. I am sure this will upset some of our so called experts and self proclaimed impractical/out of touch GNH scientists.
    Referring to his article part 1- No India, no GNH is a hard truth that Bhutan and its leader need to give a serious thought. Our economy has been almost handicapped by it’s over dependence on India. There is no denying interdependence in this age of globalization, however, when we start importing everything from a 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 handicapped?
    Growing social nuisance and menace from our 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. Or is it a sign that our so called adults and senior citizens in our society are not practicing what they preach. However, despite all the best of efforts from the education system and the parents, these problems will exist as in any society due the sudden explosion of information and media in the last one decade. Many youth today learn things from their laptops and computer rather than from real life situations. Nevertheless we cannot use this as an excuse to not do anything as these are challenges that every society going through transitions face and the government and the civil society seriously needs to think about managing them more effectively.
    All is not doom and gloom as the writer has projected regarding the state of affairs with our youth, culture, polity, governance and the economy for the mere fact that our streets are not up in flames with internal strife, nor have we destroyed our natural environment for economic greed like many countries around the world. The author’s views on freedom, justice and democracy are timely, yes it is an ideal to aspire for in any progressive society, however when the very ideals are stained and used as a rhetoric’s by crony capitalistic structure like in the west, than it is just a mere hypocrisy. As we may know from the 1% rich holding 99% of the country’s wealth in the US, a country that preaches freedom, liberty and equality to the rest of the world, where some people have to sleep in their cars parked in public parking lot (BBC reports). Where politicians are controlled by greedy self centered corporates who cannot see anything beyond profits, even their seemingly philanthropic works are stained by selfish motives.
    I would recommend caution before you start generalizing the whole country with just few years of stay in one little town. 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 a noble worthy pursuit at best.
    Your critical perspective on GNH is timely at a time when Bhutan is having a romance with GNH and almost out of touch with the reality that stares at its face. Such views from the outside will surely stir the hornets’ nest but Bhutan needs realize that we can no longer live in denial of some of its own hypocrisies and just brush them off as condescending or patronizing thoughts from a foreigner. I would like to earnestly urge our government and the leaders that, now is the time to walk the talk and straighten out the flaws in our economic structure, governance, corruption, education system and not just focus on advertising Bhutan as this non-existent shangrila of “GNH”. Nevertheless I truly believe if there is one place on this planet where we can make this experiment called GNH work, than one of them is Bhutan. For this purpose the government, civil society and media should encourage more open minded debates and discussion amongst the ordinary citizens of Bhutan and above all we need to encourage the citizens to be the most critical of GNH just as the intellectuals and researchers from within the country and abroad not because we want to find faults alone but because we are “Pro GNH” and truly believe we can make it happen as an alternative development model. With the blessings of triple gem, 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, realm of intellectual speculation, macbooks, expensive seminars and conferences, colorful kabneys and shine on the darkness of modern day material and spiritual challenges of Bhutan and beyond. Pelden Drukpa Lhagello. Long live Bhutan.

  27. The author whatever his intentions 

  28. Dear Dr. David, I just have a short reaction to your this interview. This interview clearly shows that you are a capitalist at heart and anything that you see being equitable and fair you see it as socialism. In fact you need to understand the context in which we function (The population size, the culture etc) and did you ever think at any point that maybe, just maybe the Bhutanese are doing something that might just work for them. We are definitely not headed towards socialism but we are neither happy with what capitalism does and yes, we don’t give a rat’s farthing what you businessmen with $ 100 million to$ 200 million think of Bhutan. Its just that like the your friends don’t know about GNH or Bhutan, the other side does know about Bhutan and it is better someone does know about Bhutan rather than no one knowing about Bhutan or GNH. 

    I have seen that in all your articles, all you are concerned is about capitalism and time and again you indicate on it. Sometimes I tend to think that all you are concerned is about capitalistic economy as that is all you teach and know and therefore, you are afraid of anything else that may seem unfamiliar to you. I think Dr. David, you definitely need to give yourself a chance and at least try to believe in the idea that there may be something else apart from you capitalistic views that may actually function. The more I read your articles, the more I am convinced that you are a frustrated man. I hope all works out well for you. 

  29. BhutanGuy.
    I appreciate you comments on the article by Dr. David. But if you read his article, he has been very candid and we cannot always expect only ‘what we and our leaders wanted to hear’. He has clearly pointed out that talking is not enough, there is more to do at home as much as GNH is being preached abroad.

    • Sunmoom, I thank you for your response and I fully understand and appreciate your comment. However, what people from Developed World has to understand is that they have had a long start in their developmental process and most often than not they have developed on the expense of the so called third world countries (extracting resources and using slavery and labor) and now they come and preach that we have not attained the level of development to preach about our ideals. Thats not fair. First of all what they need to understand is that they have enough problems in their backyard. They ned to clean their backyard and then come pointing fingers at others. 
      I know its difficult for us to understand why our leaders are going around the world preaching about GNH when we have problems back home. Bt what we need to understand is that nobody in Bhutan said that we have attained the perfect state of GNH, rather it is a goal that we as a nation intend to pursue. On why our leaders go around preaching GNH??? Well so many people from the west has come to learn about GNH and have elucidated their idea without actually using the term GNH. For example, the present Prime Minister of UK had come to visit Bhutan when he was the leader of opposition and after that he went back to the UK and during the last election he won the Prime Ministership on his ticket of Wellbeing which actually is very similar to GNH. Further, the UNSG instituted a commission called the Sarkosy Commission (Former President of France) to study wellbeing and economics. This basically is GNH and therefore, if our leaders do not preach about GNH to the outside world as being ours, we will lose ownership of it. Further, if you travel around the world, the only brand name that people will associate with Bhutan is Happiness and that is good publicity for our country. After all recognition is one way of strengthening our sovereignty. 
      The only thing that I wish all Bhutanese need to learn is that when engaging on the debate on GNH, they take time to learn a little more and then give correct information. This will go a long way in serving your country. I am not the biggest fan of the PM, but the good he has done for Bhutan in the international arena is something that not many can achieve and we need to appreciate and give him the credit instead of listening to a Dr. David who thinks no end of his country and his capitalistic economy. 

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