Paul Hawken: Finding Your Way in the Next Economy

In his book The Next Economy and in this interview, Paul Hawken explains why people and businesses need to adjust to the reality that information is supplanting physical resources as an economic input.

| March/April 1985

  • Paul Hawken - The New Economy
    Businessman Paul Hawken doesn't just promote his idea of The New Economy, he's lived it as founder of Erewhon and co-owner of Smith & Hawken.
    Photo by Steve Keull

  • Paul Hawken - The New Economy

"The single most important trend to understand is the changing ratio between mass and information in goods and services. This change will decide whether your present employer will be in business a decade from now. If you own a business, it will determine whether your company will grow or diminish. It will tell you whether your chosen study or career will be rewarded or ignored in the future. It will accurately predict the chances of success of products and services in the marketplace. It will tell you if your wages will go up or down in the coming years. And it will tell you where to invest, how to invest, and when to invest."

— Paul Hawken, The Next Economy 

You know, although money may be pretty expensive these days (as anyone who's borrowed some lately will attest!), talk about money seems to be cheaper than ever. The ivory-tower economics professor, the get-rich-quick con artist, the "inside expert" financial consultant and even the fellow who cuts your hair, everyone seems to be willing to tell you exactly what's going on in the economy today. There's only one problem: All these authorities disagree. 

Well, the following interview with businessman-author Paul Hawken gives one more outlook on our country's and the world's present financial quagmire — one that, as the quote above from Hawken's book The Next Economy shows, is by no means a modest one. Two things, though, make this discussion different, and probably a lot more accurate and useful than the views of the typical armchair analyst. 

The first is that Paul speaks from personal experience as a highly successful and respected small-business man. In 1966 he turned a bunch of disorganized food co-opers in Boston into Erewhon, America's first multimillion-dollar natural foods supplier. Currently, he's co-owner of Smith & Hawken, importers of quality garden tools. (Unsolicited testimonial: Our Eco-village gardeners, and many staff growers as well, love their Smith & Hawken hand tools.) In both instances, Hawken started with an intense personal interest and created a highly successful — and frequently imitated — business. 

Second, although Paul has a lot of good counsel to offer on the economy, home business and individual investments, his analysis isn't focused exclusively on $$$ signs. Instead, he has a much broader vision that incorporates environmental and philosophical issues in a way that's both obvious and startling. 


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