Through rule of law and economic development

Conference: Want of freedom to buy, sell or undertake economic actions are part of human nature, which if promoted uprightly could lead to economic as well as non-monetary prosperity.

The concept of economic freedom for happiness was extensively explored during the economic freedom network Asia conference in Thimphu yesterday.

For Bhutan, experts pointed out that enhancing economic freedom would promote Gross National Happiness (GNH).

President of Korean Economic Research Institute, who also served a minister of Prime Minister’s office in Korea, Tae Shin Kwon said GNH covers many issues, which the GDP measure doesn’t cover. Enhancing economic freedom, he said would lead to speedy economic growth and fast poverty reduction, thus supporting the GNH model.

“Economic prosperity not only brings monetary prosperity but also longevity,” he said in reference to a study conducted on OECD countries, which revealed that more free economies have longer life expectancies.

The QED groups founding partner, Sunil Rasaily said the two pillars of GNH -sustainable economic development and good governance are directly related to economic freedom. “But there are lot of other indicators, such as environment and culture, unique to Bhutan but not included in the economic freedom index.

Tae Shin Kwon told Kuensel that sometimes a country has to make compromises and draw a social agreement. “If persevering environment is more important than economic freedom, pursuing it promotes happiness.”

He said Bhutan should find a strategy best suited for Bhutanese to overcome constraints and invest in human capital.

Fraser Institute fellow, who manages world economic freedom network, Fred McMahon said GNH is a far better way to measure happiness because it covers other aspects than merely “asking are you happy?”

“Human beings are not happiness machines, there are so many dimensions of human conditions,” he said adding that freedom, education and willingness to help others are also part of human beings.

He said economic freedom increases life control factors like trust, health, employment and education, which in turn increases happiness.

“Corruption decreases happiness and economic freedom decreases corruption,” he said. Citing an example, he said, if more permissions are required to do something, there emerges a need to pay off someone and if no permission is required there is no one to pay off.

Happiness, experts said is highly linked to economic freedom through rule of law and economic development, and this is where the role of the government comes in.

Tae Shin Kwon said government intervention is necessary to maintain security and ensure that people abide by the rules of the game. “If the government makes and implements laws to protect the people, property and intellectual rights, then businessmen need not worry about crime or property theft,” he said. “It is the role of governments to give subsidies and tax benefits for specific areas.”

Once the government interferes or tries to do too much in business, he said it turns out to be socialist or communist ideology, which has been proven unsuccessful.

Less government intervention, experts say, is supposed to offer more opportunities for people to carry out economic activities leading to economic wellbeing by meeting their own needs as well as providing services that fulfill others’ needs.

Experts also pointed out that it was important to study how much unhappiness does a policy create, who benefits and who suffers.

By Tshering Dorji