GDP and HDI are at odds with GNH on the one level that highlights the immeasurable but important positives of life. As stated, GDP seeks to measure social welfare on the basis of economic prosperity in terms of the nation’s success (and thus, capacity) to produce goods/services. GNH on the other hand measures just that; the holistic approach to happiness, ie, mental well being independent of materialistic objects of prosperity. The problem therefore is that GPI and HDI attempt to expand beyond materialism however they fall short. They fail to fully cover up the internal/mental source of contentment as GNH does. If compared with the Mandala well being module, these new measures cover Physical well being, which deals with the external; but ignore reflective and subjective well being. GNH would cover up those areas in their pillars of equitable development and adherence to culture.
To further elaborate on how these MEWs fall short:
One example would be while measuring HDI, the constituent political/good governance is left out. If life expectancy or knowledge is high, but a country does not have a good government that cares about it’s people; it would translate to the people working in their own selfish interests and therefore, it could not be termed ‘development or prosperity’ in the right sense. In other words, the prosperity of the country does not include the happiness of it’s citizens.
GNH, the measure for well being, has several shortcomings of it’s own. Though one would say the pros outweigh the cons, the general consensus is that the traditional measure of development, the GDP, is the preferred indicator. Development and happiness, have different meanings for different people. And therefore, for different countries. Within the country itself, are several personalities who would choose mental health over economic health.
Bhutan is a small country with a simple lifestyle; a country that would proudly call itself traditional or conservative. The ruler can safely speak for the nation when he says the Bhutanese agree social progress in all aspects scores over progress mainly focused on economic/monetary aspect.
The same could not be applied to a country like the USA, where New Yorkers are more concerned with financial markets; and the higher those figures climb, the wider the grins. The same in workaholic Mumbai, where people would prefer spending 75% of their day in the office, brainstorming and completing reports to attain the national goal of best economy in the world.
Over the years, the philosophy that happiness stems from having everything you want and that is satisfied through more money in the wallet, has gained precedence. Money does make the world go round. Money is your standard measure of happiness. It can be applied to the various cultures/races within a country.
And the good old measure of GDP does just that- takes into account incomes and goods produced and their utility, to measure the welfare of the economy and country. Money and it’s equivalents (incomes, productivity etc) has a new meaning: it dominates the areas of health, entertainment, profession etc. To developed countries: Money (& its equivalents) IS wellbeing; for without it, and the goods it produces, one is foodless, homeless and helpless. While exists the argument that in an already satiated society, goods and services tend to lose their appeal and thus, happiness or prosperity cannot directly tend to them.. there is always scope for improvement..hence the already satiated country will still look for better produce and quality..and the cycle continues.. “the aspiration treadmill” Also, backing the statement “individual prefer family relationships to incomes”, the higher the income, the better to support the family and satiate more desires. (which in turn satisfies individual’s need for charity)
GDP has a materialistic approach to measuring...