The Most Important Currency of the 21st Century

I just had the pleasure of watching a fascinating online lecture about how the most important currency of the 21st Century is likely to be not liquidity or credit-worthiness, but reputation. The lecturer was a brilliant young author and business consultant named Rachel Botsman; she was giving a TED Talk entitled “The Currency of the New Economy is Trust?” I can’t recommend it highly enough.

In the late 1990s, I had an idea for a new business called OnMoney. It was going to be a single online destination where people could maintain all their financial information in one place. In other words, a terrifically convenient service that would empower consumers. I thought it was a great idea, but I was wrong. It didn’t work, and Ms. Botsman’s TED Talk gets at the heart of why. Back in the 1990s, no one was going to trust a single financial firm to host all their most sensitive information. But as Ms. Botsman points out, it’s a different story today. Sharing this kind of sensitive financial information online is now commonplace – think of websites like Even more interesting is that through web-based businesses like Airbnb, WhipCar, Spinlister, and DogVacay, we’re sharing possessions that are just as (if not even more) personal: a room in our house, our car or bike, even our pets.

And more than simply creating marketplaces (and markets) where none existed before, the Internet is creating a currency of reputations. As someone who loves free markets, I can tell you that this currency was not created or regulated by a government. Rather, it sprang organically from the free market. In fact, the government’s only role in any of this was to help launch the Internet – that is, to establish the infrastructure that has permitted free enterprise to flourish and, to borrow a phrase Ms. Botsman uses, to create “micro-entrepreneurs.”

Good News from the Windy City

Very exciting news today from, our award-winning neighborhood news site that will soon be launching operations in Chicago. As part of its mandate to field the best team of local journalists around, Chicago has hired Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Mark Konkol, a veteran newspaperman whom one local press critic describes as a genuine “Chicago journalism superstar.” Konkol joins’s team of 20 full-time local Chicago reporters – which is more than the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times Metro staffs combined. You can read all about Konkol and’s plans for Chicago HERE.

An Important Book

As part of my effort to promote informed discussion of the critically important economic challenges facing our country, Ending Spending, the non-partisan advocacy group I founded and lead, recently published a book called “The Fiscal Cliff.” Carefully researched and written by Ayse and Selahattin Imrohoroglu (two well-regarded economists who teach at the University of Southern California), “The Fiscal Cliff” is a readable, fact-based analysis of how our economic future is threatened by out-of-control government spending and the ballooning federal debt it produces. The purpose of the book is to identify and explain the facts and some of the key challenges that brought us to this financial precipice. After laying out these facts, the Imrohoroglus concluded that our nation’s debt trajectory is unsustainable and decisive action is required to prevent an economic disaster.

A few weeks ago, Ending Spending sent copies of the book to every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and this week we sent out fifty more – one to each governor of every state in the union. You can download your own free e-book here: I can’t say “The Fiscal Cliff” is a fun read, but especially in an election year, it is certainly an important one.

A Great Decision

I’ll leave it to the pundits to speculate about what led Mitt Romney to choose Paul Ryan as his running mate. But as far I’m concerned, it was a great decision. As someone who is deeply concerned about how out-of-control federal spending threatens to deprive future generations of the economic opportunity people of my generation enjoyed, I have been an enthusiastic supporter of Rep. Ryan and his serious approach to balancing the federal budget. But the best thing about his addition to the ticket is that it guarantees that an issue that ranks among the most serious facing our country today – the menace posed by our growing debt – will be central to the debate in this year’s Presidential campaign. And that’s good news for all Americans.

Spotlight on

A terrific article recently posted on Capital, a New York-based media-news site, talks at length about how, “with its frequent scoops and more nimble approach to breaking news,” is making waves and has its “competitors…in a sweat” in the country’s biggest and most important media market. You can read it here. Among other things, the writer notes that I often talk about how proud I am of what the team at has accomplished. He sure has that right.

For the Record

Back on May 17, The New York Times kicked off a feeding frenzy by the mainstream media with a front-page article that purported to describe my political activities. Now that the initial brouhaha has died down a bit, I thought this might be a good time to set the record straight.

Anybody who knows me will tell you that I’ve never made a secret of my deep conviction that this country desperately needs to change its fiscal course if we’re to preserve opportunity for future generations. This starts with making sure we’ve got a President in the White House who is truly committed to sound fiscal policy.

As an entrepreneur, I have always believed in the importance of “putting your money where your mouth is.” And in this spirit, I have always been open about my intention to exercise my right to free speech by putting my own money behind a campaign to elect political leaders this November – including a President – who are committed to getting our fiscal ship back on course.

The first step I took in this regard was to interview a number of political consultants who might help the group I founded, the Ending Spending Action Fund, mount such a campaign. One of these consultants was an advertising man named Fred Davis. I first met Mr. Davis in January at his office in Los Angeles, where he showed me some samples of his work from previous campaigns. I had a second meeting with him in New York several weeks later, at which time I asked him to put together a proposal for a campaign. Mr. Davis presented his proposal at a third meeting in Chicago on Thursday, May 10. I was not at this meeting and only received a copy of the proposal the following Saturday afternoon. I read it that Sunday afternoon and returned it to my son Peter, telling him that my response was negative.

The following Thursday, May 17, The New York Times published its article about Mr. Davis’s proposal. It’s entirely possible that The Times’s reporters actually saw the proposal before I did.

After reading The Times story, TV commentator Joe Scarborough called it “phony journalism” and said the paper was “shamelessly cheerleading for Democrats.” Certainly, the article left a very misleading impression that resulted in a lot of misinformation circulating in the press and on the Internet. But as the old saying goes, the dogs bark and the caravan moves on. My plans have not been affected by any of this. I still intend to do what I can this year to help elect political leaders who share my commitment to economic responsibility.

To me, this is not a matter of Republicans versus Democrats. It’s a matter of common sense and good policy. Indeed, if President Obama were to introduce a balanced budget and a credible plan to reduce the national debt, I would seriously consider supporting his re-election. I love America and its promise of opportunity. I want the same opportunities I enjoyed to be available to future generations of Americans. This is not going to happen unless we all take action to make it happen. And that’s just what I plan to do.

Kids in Nepal

I wanted to share the photos of these wonderful children in Nepal working with learning materials from Opportunity Education Foundation. They are part of a group of 12 kids at their school who face more challenges than most: not only must they contend with poverty, they also happen to be deaf. What I find particularly inspiring is that their teachers learned sign language so they could educate the kids. Partnering with people who are so committed to helping children is something I find truly rewarding.

Joe Ricketts Blog | Opportunity Education in Nepal

Joe Ricketts Blog | Opportunity Education Foundation in Nepal

Brian Baker, president of the Ending Spending Action Fund, has released the following statement on behalf of Joe Ricketts

Joe Ricketts is a registered independent, a fiscal conservative, and an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration, but he is neither the author nor the funder of the so-called “Ricketts Plan” to defeat Mr. Obama that The New York Times wrote about this morning. Not only was this plan merely a proposal – one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors – but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take. Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a President this fall who shares his commitment to economic responsibility, but his efforts are and will continue to be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally. wins six New York Press Club Awards

Rather than breaking news, our first-rate editorial team at made news this week, notching six wins at this year’s New York Press Club Awards – more than any other news outlet, except for the Associated Press, which also won in six categories. Among the work honored was’s innovative Crime & Safety Report, the groundbreaking reporting on the NYPD ticket-fixing scandal by our veteran investigative journalist Murray Weiss, Amy Zimmer’s continuing coverage of mismanagement at the National Arts Club, and our team reporting on Hurricane Irene. Given that the Press Club Awards drew entries from 58 news organizations, including some of the nation’s biggest and most established media brands,’s big win is a great accomplishment. I couldn’t be prouder of the team.

Spring Is Here

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This one (, taken last week at The Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch, is worth that and then some. Simply breathtaking.

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