GDP, GNH, Happiness, Wellbeing


According to a resolution of the UN General Assembly (Resolution 66/281), March 20th is observed annually as International Day of Happiness. A nation’s overall success is measured by people’s happiness, the litmus test. The World Happiness Report (WHR) states there is consensus about measuring happiness, whereas, happiness is idiosyncratic and its connotation differs from culture to culture, language to language, and even person to person. Personal ‘space’ in all spheres matters, and so do democracy or dictatorship, all factors leading to mismeasures of happiness scores. And so, there are paradoxes in happiness rankings in WHR. Economists have yet to take cognizance of ‘happiness’: there is as yet no word like ‘happiness’ in JEL Classification. The WHR algorithm for computing country-wise happiness scores is passable, but the results are credulous. This is on account of inherent drawbacks of opinion polling about ‘happiness in life so far’, cognitive dissonance about civilizational ethos, bias in information regarding eudemonia, generosity, freedoms, human rights, corruption, and government effectiveness. Let us set up Bharat’s own Happiness Commission to estimate an operational Happiness score analogous with that of the WHR. There is a rationale for happiness scores: they help discard ‘growth for growth’s sake’ constructs especially after life’s basics, including health and education, are reached to people. Lesson: Maximize Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than press on with increasingly unsustainable levels of GDP.