NEW YORK – I have just returned from Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom of unmatched natural beauty, cultural richness, and inspiring self-reflection. From the kingdom’s uniqueness now arises a set of economic and social questions that are of pressing interest for the entire world.
Bhutan’s rugged geography fostered the rise of a hardy population of farmers and herdsmen, and helped to foster a strong Buddhist culture, closely connected in history with Tibet. The population is sparse – roughly 700,000 people on territory the size of France – with agricultural communities nestled in deep valleys and a few herdsmen in the high mountains. Each valley is guarded by a dzong (fortress), which includes monasteries and temples, all dating back centuries and exhibiting a masterful combination of sophisticated architecture and fine arts.