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Joe Ricketts on free enterprise, the engine that drives America

Joseph Ricketts on the power of free enterprise
Joseph Ricketts on the power of free enterprise 02:38

Joe Ricketts, the founder and former CEO/Chairman of Ameritrade, is the author of "The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get: An Entrepreneur's Memoir," published by Simon & Schuster (a division of CBS):

Are we headed into a recession?  You can't pick up a newspaper without seeing that question. Well, I've been involved in the financial market since the Stone Age, and while I don't have a crystal ball, I can tell you with 100% certainty a recession is coming. 

Maybe not today or tomorrow, but it's coming; economies go through recessions periodically.  I don't think this one will be deep or long, as I've never worked in such a strong economy.

The thing is, with all this talk of recession, we're taking our eye off the ball that really matters: we are, amazingly, engaged in a philosophical battle over our economic system.  Free enterprise has come to be seen as the province of conservatives, while liberals praise something more like socialism.

My progressive-liberal friends worry that free enterprise is unfair, producing inequality.

Simon & Schuster

Now, there are real issues of fairness to be addressed, but these folks talk as if there will always be a big pot of money, and the only question is how to divide it. But where does that pot come from? It comes from a growing economy and job opportunities: the things new businesses create. It comes from free enterprise. 

I discovered this for myself when I founded my own business with $12,500, most of it borrowed. A partner and I saw the chance to offer customers a better deal on stock trades, and over 45 years, that company grew into what is now TD Ameritrade. It handles $1.3 trillion in client assets. It employs ten thousand people, all of whom have good jobs and contribute to our economy. None of that would have happened without a robust free enterprise system.

We need to change the conversation we're having about the American economy. 

And in our homes, we should teach our children that if they want good jobs, some of them will need to start the businesses that create those jobs.

In our schools, we should teach critical thinking, and the importance of finding your opportunities and taking your risks. 

You don't repair a car by throwing out the engine. Free enterprise is the engine of success for us all. 

 "The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get" by Joe Ricketts

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Story produced by Robbyn McFadden.

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