The Pursuit Of Happiness

What makes us happy? Bhutan's bold attempt to quantify national well-being and achieve sustainable development has pushed economists in the West to find their own paths

Illustration by Peter Arkle for TIME

The whitewashed walls and gilded roofs of the Tashichho Dzong have withstood three centuries of fires, earthquakes and Himalayan winters. Inside this imposing fortress-monastery, in his elegant silk robe, Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley presides over the government of Bhutan, an idyllic Buddhist kingdom known for its gentle way of life. The fourth king coined the phrase gross national happiness (GNH) more than 30 years ago to suggest an enlightened Eastern alternative to the pressures of the materialistic West. Dare to call Bhutan "the happiest place on earth," however, and you are likely to provoke exasperated sighs from Thinley. He has made...

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