I was reading a National Geographic article about Bhutan and its struggle to modernize when I thought of this question. What the king is doing is remarkable. Rarely in all of history has an absolute monarch simultaneously opened his country up and voluntarily given up power to the people. Clearly, he believes in the benefits of modernization/globalization, but can any country maintain its identity in the face of such titantic forces?
Unfortunately, the tenative answer is “no.” The problem is that once you give people the freedom to choose, you cannot control what they do with it. Many times they will choose the new influences over the old for their novelty/coolness, and once you open Pandora’s Box, you cannot go back. You must accept the bad with the good.
Indeed, it has been a mixed bag for Bhutan. Life expectancy is up, and child mortality is down; but crime and materialism threaten to change their conservative Buddhist society forever.
Who can say this decision was right or wrong? There is no definitive answer. One can only hope that Bhutanese can find a happy medium between old and new. I am pulling for them.