Aug 5, 2010

A Happy economy? The GNH Metric

John de Graff, author and filmmaker of “Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic” and writer of “What’s the Economy For Anyway” and founder of Take Back Your Time gave a fantastic brownbag tonight for Sustainable Seattle. Here is a summary.

Gross National Happiness is the measure Bhutan uses instead of the Gross National Product (GNP). Bhutan uses GNH to form policies and law, allocate resources and take action, just as the US uses the GNP. So what is the GNH? It has nine parts: Mental Health, Physical Health, Time Balance, Education, Cultural Vitality, Social Connection, Environmental Quality, Governance and Material Wellbeing. In other words, the gross national product counts for 1/9th of how the country measures itself.

What is the point of working such long hours, messing up the environment, allowing our health, community and family to fall into dilapidation just so we can have more stuff? Gallup, a marketing research company, surveys states in the US (Washington ranks #7 or so) and countries on our planet, and issues reports rating countries (Denmark is all smiley faces, US falls between 11 and 20 in any given year).

How is GNH measured? Surveys are taken- the Wellbeing Survey (June 2010). The Well-being Survey asks people to rate how strongly they agree whether “in most ways my life is close to ideal.” “The conditions of my life are ideal,” “I would change almost nothing in my life,” and how often they feel pleasant, cheerful, love, sad, anger, worry and stress. Nine scores are compiled for each part- these are the nine parts of the GNH. In the survey they are called: “The Pace of Your life” “Employment,” “Your Community,” “Social Support” (i.e. friends and family), “Psychological Wellbeing,” “Your Financial Security” “Your Culture and Education,” “Your Attitudes Toward Government and Public Institutions,” “Your Natural Environment” and You and Your Household.”

The Seattle City Council is looking into adopting the approach Greater Victoria took. Their summary report “The Happiness Index” (April 2009 is being used to raise questions, and, perhaps, at some point, provide answers. For government- towards more participation, for our personal lives- giving rather than spending money, volunteering and building trust in relationships. In our corporate governance where laws are imposed so that employees must elect half a board of directors, limiting work weeks to 40 or fewer hours, vacations and maternal leave is the law.

Gross National Happiness: USA

1 comment:

  1. I just sent round some related items to people who were at the talk:

    Two days after the talk, the New York Times published a lovely long article about the disconnect between money and happiness:

    A group of researchers at Harvard and Northeastern Universities has put together some lovely visualisations of happiness across the US and over a week, based on the words people use on Twitter. The patterns are interesting, and fit well with things John said about the rhythm of the working day, and of which parts of this country are happiest:

    Tania sent in this Ted Talk by Chip Conley:

    This week Seattle City Club announced that the next theme they hold a series of dialogues on will be public trust, which came out as an important component of the happiest societies. They're looking for people to help facilitate these dialogues: