Kings and Indicators: Options for Governing Without Numbers

  • Wolfgang Drechsler


Given the inevitability of using indicators for governance in the modern state, but considering also their considerable drawbacks, this essay looks at alternative options within contemporary government systems. It finds these potentially in three Asian places with a powerful monarchy with a spiritual happiness mandate and popular legitimacy which also have developed a heterodox development approach: Thailand, Bhutan, and Yogyakarta. The analysis shows, however, that, while heterodox additions to standard indicators are feasible, completely reneging on them does not seem to be desired or possible.


Indicators Happiness Buddhism Sufficiency Economy Gross National Happiness Unification of King and People 



Thanks are due, for discussion of the paper in Heidelberg, to Julia Schubert and Kaat Louckx, who served as formal discussants during the first and second conferences, respectively (and who tried their best to nudge the paper closer to “normal social science”), Kathrine and Georg v. Gravenitz, who convened section II of the conference, to Markus J. Prutsch as the coordinator of the entire project, and to the other participants, but especially to Kelly Grotke and Stephen Hastings-King. I am especially grateful, next to all interviewees qua interviewees as listed, in Thailand, to Ponlapat Buracom, Sally Jutabha, Tavivat Puntarigvivat, Apichai Puntasen, and Ploy Suebvises; in Bhutan, to Robin Gurung, Keshav Gurung, Dasho Meghraj Gurung, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, Dasho Kinga Tshering (then MP, now my fellow at Harvard), and Lhawang Ugyel; in Indonesia, to Raden Agus Saputra Darmi, Wahyudi Kumotomoro, Tavip Agus Rayanto and particularly to His Majesty Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X; and elsewhere, to Ingbert Edenhofer, Rainer Kattel, Amirouche Moktefi, R.G.P. Bahadur Rai, and Colin Talbot. Several sections of the case studies are based on Drechsler (2019). Funding for facilities used in this research was provided by the core infrastructure support IUT (19-13) of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolfgang Drechsler
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Ragnar Nurkse DepartmentTallinn University of TechnologyTallinnEstonia
  2. 2.Davis CenterHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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