Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a little bird told me

Crow here.. incognito. You wouldn't necessarily think there are any advantages to being a crow but it certainly is an asset to my role as an international investigator of economic shenanigans. For one thing, my spies and pinioned minions can go anywhere with ease - no expensive airplane flights, no hotel fees and no getting ripped off by local guides. We're on the air as it were. Even better, who is going to pay attention to my brothers in the branches of trees overlooking fancy outdoor restaurants and garden parties? You would be unlikely to get near Bretton Woods but we have nested there for time out of mind. The only carbon footprint we leave is the one you might find on your jacket if you're unlucky enough to stroll beneath our boughs at an inopportune moment.

I've learned about a place you'd never guess would have a better national economic plan than the one you currently labor under but just so you don't get too depressed let me introduce you to Bhutan where they have what you might refer to as an 'enlightened' financial policy:

Instead of Gross National Product or GNP, what the Bhutanese have is called Gross National Happiness or GNH. Really.

To be brief the country has 40 Buddhist lamas who are 'calculators". For 1500 years they've used a book of mathematical and astronomical formulae. After meditating on the questions people bring to them they devise investment plans.

* "We call the economic model Gross National Happiness and, after 30 years of applying this ancient principle, we've discovered it's more important than Gross Domestic Product,'' says the prime minister whose name means thunderbolt in Dzongkha, the national language.

"GNH is a method of balancing sustainable growth against the often damaging results of rampant wealth,'' Dorji adds. "Keeping that balance is the most difficult challenge facing any global leader.'' *

Now hold on to your feathers while I mention a couple of things. Their stock market bell rings only on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 11:00am and when the four stockbrokers are done the market closes. They only harvest 2000 megawatts of their potential 10,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power since conservation is more important than the profit to be made selling electricity to India and China. The country has only one ATM for all 700,000 people and they don't need more. Their per capita income is much higher than that in nearby nations and their schools, hospitals and public services are growing.

The chief executive officer of the bank of Bhutan says, "I have no doubts that Western banks consider us to be primitives,'' Tshering laughs. "By their standards, a profit mandate is more important than a social mandate. Subprime occurred simply because lenders packaged irresponsibility and sold it off to the highest bidder.''

Just a little reminder that things having to do with money don't necessarily have to bad. Now I'd better get the head under the wing so I'll be sharp for further investigating.


lindsaylobe said...

Keep that bird under your wing as you fly around, we could do with many more such stories like this~ fancy the worlds newest democracy, now the first to chart a happiness index.

The stock market also sounds like an ideal uncomplicated place to work, just the sort of hours and simplicity needed!

How about a wellbeing manifesto.

Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Hello, Susan.
I like Lindsay's idea of a Well-Being Manifesto.

Some slicksters would probably find loop-holes though....

Randal Graves said...

If I could choose one thing that would never ever have a chance of being adopted here, it would be some variation of GNH. A shame we serve the wrong kind of bottom line.

Anonymous said...

GNH! What a concept! Unfortunately, like everything else in this country (including homes, mortgages, and education), it's a "valued" commodity that can only be purchased with money.

susan said...

lindsay - A wellbeing manifesto sounds good to me too. Likely way too good to be true in this society but the Inspector seemed to think that your idea might get some wings.

pt - Maybe the Slicksters could all move someplace else - Texas? Las Vegas? Reno? and they could work their schemes on each other without bothering everybody else.

randal - I'm delighted by the fact it seems to be working somewhere. Who would have thought?

spartacus - I always thought there was something suspect about the American right to pursue happiness since a lot of people don't seem to understand what it means. Why didn't the Founding Fathers use another word instead - like contentment or peace?

Seraphine said...

I love this post, Susan!
It's a good reminder that stewardship and good management are more important than profit (and in the long run, it's a more sustainable business plan).
Profit is important, but it's like eating - One needs a healthy diet.
Gorging at the profit trough isn't pretty.

susan said...

hi sera - I'm just hoping we can learn at least as fast as we figured out how to cause the problems. An article I read to-day said 'How is it Google stock is worth billions, yet rain forest is worth nothing?'

lindsaylobe said...

All companies should be actively encouraged to adopt socially environmental responsible business practices.

In fact this should always have been the case it is an indictment of our civilised state to think otherwise. The alternative is to give no consideration to sustainability and disregard the rights of future generations.

My preference has always been however for descriptive provisions to operate by way of guiding principles enacted in law and within corporate governance structures.
Otherwise I think we are in danger of thinking of ethics and environmental sustainability as something only very highly trained people are capable of thinking about.

Hence Corporate Social Responsibility needs to stay in the mainstream of shareholder and stakeholder concerns, acknowledged at every level in the community.
Best wishes

fairlane said...

Isn't our GNP (Gross National Product) the Bush Administration?

Scarlet W. Blue said...

I could use some gross national happiness.

susan said...

lindsay - Nobody says it better than David Korten. Perhaps you've read him? Here are two quotes from 'The Post Corporate World - Life After Capitalism':
'Living capital, which has the special capacity to continuously regenerate itself, is ultimately the source of all real wealth. To destroy it for money, a simple number with no intrinsic value, is an act of collective insanity -- which makes capitalism a mental, as well as a physical pathology.'

'To create a world in which life can flourish and prosper we must replace the values and institutions of capitalism with values and institutions that honor life, serve life's needs, and restore money to its proper role as servant. I believe we are in fact being called to take a step to a new level of species consciousness and function.'

fairlane - Succinct and all too true!

scarlet - I know you could and I wish I could give it to you.. and all of us.

susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzi Riot said...

Nothing pithy to say, but GREAT post. I really like this Inspector Crow!

Gary said...

Thanks Inspector Crow!

And yes, Bhutan is amazing. My friend Neil was one of the first UN people accepted by the King to look at development with them (late 1980's). In addition to loving every minute they lived in Bhutan (wife and one kid there too), Neil was able to join the King to play basketball in the palace. Apparently the King is a fanatic.

susan said...

suzi - Glad you like the Inspector. He's been in touch and will be back soon.

gary - That's a great story about your friend Neil. I know the king there has been very progressive in wanting to end the monarchy as ultimate rulers. It's fine when you get a good one but they are rare.