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Gross National Happiness: An Alternative to Profit Motive of the Free Market

Gross National Happiness: An Alternative to Profit Motive of the Free Market
Time tells us to introduce Gross National Happiness...Photo by Vasuki Belavadi

“The greatest people are not one in which an unequal and boundless wealth produces crude and sordid men and venal and egoistic women: a great pueblo, regardless of its size, is one of generous men and women. The yardstick of any human civilization is the kind of men and women it produces.” –Jose Marti

Bhutan, the small landlocked country in South Asia measures its social progress not in accumulative wealth but through happiness. Coined by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the 1970s, the term ‘Gross National Happiness’ is a unique and positively radical model of socio-economic development that stands refreshingly against the western capitalist economic models.

Rejecting dominant and seemingly less opposed western materialist model of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) is an attempt at sustainable development that preserves the nation’s culture, environment and natural resources. Based on Buddhist philosophy and spiritual values it insists that the “fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity…are the necessary pursuit of economic growth”. The positive results of the GNH on not only economic stability but emotional wellbeing, education, pollution control all have been tremendous.

In today’s neoliberal world market the characteristic principle of economic vitality is the profit motive that drives companies to challenge tough competition. Free market economists insist that the primary and most important thing for businesses in a highly competitive market place is maximizing profits and benefits. Such a view disregards the claims that enterprises also have a big social responsibility and obligations on their part other than merely being focused on making the maximum economic gain.

It holds the view that the treatment of workers, rising economic inequality, the consequences of pure corporate greed on the depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation are not the concern of corporation. With the resignation of the State from paternalistic protection and engagement in the market to minimal involvement letting free market at the monopoly of big companies, the limitations of governmental policies on entrepreneurial embellishment has been significantly high. The attitudes adopted by free market advocates and profit motive defenders is that arguments about climate change, environmental protection and security of work force is against economic growth and development itself.

The Earth Summit and various international summits for sustainable development has not only attracted many criticism but have also failed to reach either a conclusion or solution to the threat of global warming. The corporate greed and selfishness and their influence in political power has been responsible for delaying reaching conclusive alternative solutions to the same. With political back up they continue to argue that the climate change is nothing but a myth and has no footing in reality. In fact the arguments for and against centering on the denial of climate change has been one of the major political debates in recent elections worldwide. Donald J Trump, the republican presidential nominee for the 2016 US general elections have repeatedly denied climate change as nothing but propaganda to slow down economic growth stating in 2012 that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”.

Donals Trump’s and his fellow Republican’s (as well as major conservative rightist parties worldwide) proposal and major argument in achieving economic growth lies at its heart the unsurpassable benefit of the financially privileged minority.

Advocating maximum income tax cuts for big companies these political parties speak for and implement policies for the benefit of the super rich with the misguided notion that helping enterprises can have positive effects on the economy on the whole. The tax cuts implemented during George W. Bush’s tenure as president of the United States have often been criticized for playing its part in the Great recession which was harsher than the Great Depression of the 1930s. The “Bush tax cuts” not only benefited the richest Americans (the top 1 percent) increasing their wealth, it was responsible for the financial crisis faced by the middle class (whose wealth was transferred to the top) and in severe job cuts.

While the statistics and Gross Domestic Product may often show a biased and incomplete picture of deeper social reality, we need to think beyond the profit motives to build an alternative, sustainable socio-economic system that shall also measure our happiness as a society and harness harmony with our environment.

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