The best idea of 2010 came from the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan. Standing before world leaders in the United Nations General Assembly in September, Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley asked the decisive economic question of our time: “As all our people rise above the threats of basic survival, what will our collective endeavor be as a progressive society?”

He proposed an answer. Let us, he said, make “the conscious pursuit of happiness” a new pillar of global cooperation, the “ninth Millennium Development Goal.” Watching from the side of the hall, I was delighted as spontaneous cheers and applause rippled across the assembly for the first time in a long day of speeches.

The world, indeed, is long on worries and short on happiness. The problem, as Prime Minister Thinley incisively explained, is not really a shortage of material goods, even in a year of economic recession. The world is richer than ever before in history; that is certainly the case in the richest countries, even those in a cyclical downturn. Happiness, according to Bhutan’s great tradition of Himalayan Buddhism, comes not from the raw pursuit of income but, in Thinley’s words, from a “a judicious equilibrium between gains in material comfort and growth of the mind and spirit in a just and sustainable environment.”

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Jeffrey Sachs drew notice in the 1980s and ’90s as a proponent of “shock therapy” for sick economies. He is now director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.


Source: International Herald Tribune