When you consider that some of the king's schemes to increase happiness have included banning television, banning advertising and banning tobacco, you can see how this tin-pot dictatorship appeals to those of a similarly autocratic persuasion.
What Bhutan really does is demonstrate the problems of having the state decide what constitutes happiness. Whether happiness is defined by a monarch (as in Bhutan), or by committee (as with David Cameron's ludicrous National Wellbeing Project), it will inevitably result in minorities being punished for finding their pleasures outside of the government-approved activities.
Tobacco-users are not the first minority to suffer persecution in Bhutan for not fitting the mould, but as the king clamps down on their habit, they are increasingly seeing what it's like to be on the wrong side of state's view of happiness. I say tobacco-users because the story below does not even involve smoking:
A Buddhist monk could face five years in prison after becoming the first casualty of a stringent anti-smoking law in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which vows to become the first smoke-free nation.
The monk has been charged with consuming and smuggling contraband tobacco under a law that came into force this month, the newspaper Kuensel reported Friday, having been caught in possession of 72 packets of chewing tobacco.
Bhutan, where smoking is considered bad for one’s karma, banned the sale of tobacco in 2005. But with a thriving smuggling operation from neighboring India, the ban failed to make much of an impact.
The new law has granted police powers to enter homes, threatening jail for shopkeepers selling tobacco and smokers who fail to provide customs receipts for imported cigarettes.
“He can be charged with smuggling of controlled substances, which is a fourth degree felony,” a police official from the Narcotic Drug and Law enforcement Unit of Bhutan, who did not want to be identified, told the Bhutan Today newspaper.
A fourth degree felony can carry a sentence of five years.
When Bhutan banned the sale of tobacco in 2005, The Lancet glowingly predicted that "The tobacco-free age is just around the corner." If so, Bhutan gives us a glimpse of what this brave new world will look like.