Happy Reformation Day!

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 reasons on the door of Castle Church of Wittenberg, arguing that the Catholic church's doctrine on the sale of indulgences was a corruption.

Thus began the Protestant Reformation.

Who was Martin Luther?

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Martin Luther was a German priest and professor of theology who disputed the claim of Johann Tentzel that the forgiveness of sins could be purchased from the church.

How did he change the world?

Luther challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, by insisting that church doctrine must find its justifications from only once source - the Bible.

His translation of the Bible into the language of the people (instead of Latin) made it more accessible, causing a tremendous impact on the church and on German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the translation into English of the King James Bible..

(excerpt from wikipedia)

Social Media in 1517

In 1517, literacy was low, but the printing press had been invented around 1440. When new information was received, people would gather round and listen while the message was read.

This wasn't so different from what happend with Paul's letters that became part of the new Testament. What was new was that a printing press could duplicate 3,600 pages per day.

What if Luther were writing today?

Luther's 95 reasons took 1 year to spread because they had to be translated from Latin into German, but once translated, they spread throughout Europe by the printing press.

Fiesta_Tacos.ashx%3Fw%3D380 internet-speed

Imagine what would happen if Luther were alive today and could publish his ideas on the internet!

Would Martin Luther have "occupied" Wall Street/Washington?

Slide 1

The Peasant's War (1524-1525)

Occupy Wall Street -20

Occupy Wall Street Protesters

Tea Party

Tea Part Protesters

Martin Luther was opposed to the Catholic church because it was effectively religion distorted for the financial interests of ruling church leadership, but at the same time he did not support the Peasant's revolt of 1524-1525 because he believed that Romans 13:1-7 supported the Divine rule of Kings.

There was a lot going on at the time, and a complex class sytem that was responding to these changes:

Socrates: They make the Laws in their Own Interests

NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Death of Socrates

In Plato's dialogues, a character named Thrasymacus puts forward that, not just in religion, but generally, the "strong" shape the rules in their own interests.

  1. Thrasymacus argues that the strong are able to enact laws that are to their advantage
  2. The public identifies justices with the obeyance of laws.
  3. Therefore, justice is nothing but the advantage of the "strong".

Where the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street Agree

James Sinclair, an attorney in North Florida writes:

"Both are popular uprisings against powerful-but-nebulous entities believed to be responsible for America economic struggles. Both are defined not by easily-identified leaders, but by the sum total of countless unique viewpoints, and thus are not capable of articulating their goals with any cohesiveness or specificity (nor should they be expected to). And both movements, to borrow the classification scheme created by Bill O'Reilly, are teeming with both pinheads and patriots."

They agree on the problem

We do not have government by the people for the people.
"The greatest threat to our economy is neither corporations nor the government. The greatest threat to our economy is both of them working together. There are currently two sizable coalitions of angry citizens that are almost on the same page about that, and they're too busy insulting each other to notice.""

..but not the solution

To generalize: The Tea Party tends to believe that the solution is more limited government, while the Occupy Wall Street crowd tends to seek more of a role for government regulation.

It's Complicated

Sinclair volunteers that he is simplifying, and it's worth considering what some of the other factors are that may be contributing the the social and economic pressure that people feel.

The Declining Attention Span

But unfortunately the average attention span is not what it used to be in 1517.

This article has already drug on long enough, only made bearable by the addition of:


In a future article, I'll consider what a modern-day 95 theses would look like.

Draft: 99 Reasons to "Occupy the World"

Here are about 50 Wall-Street centric reasons.

You can submit your own (on any subject) on twitter and vote:

(The voting system is still in draft form too.)

Top 9 reasons to Occupy Wall Street

  1. Banks are engaging in risky behavior to try to "earn" unrealistically high profits.
  2. Financial institutions pursue risky strategies because they know that if they fail, their losses will be socialized, but if they succeed, their gains will stay private: Lemon Socialism = Socialism for the Rich.
  3. The government pretends that recent reforms now give them the ability to prevent another bailout, but big international banks like Citigroup and JPMorgan will have to be bailed out again , if they are close to failure.
  4. The Powerful write the laws in their own interest
  5. There is a "revolving door" in which people cycle between Congress, K-Street, and Wall Street.
  6. Justice ≠ The Interests of the "Strong" (Thrasymachus)
  7. Feb 2009: Ransom Note = Ultimately the public will pay through unemployment and/or taxes
  8. Recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform.
  9. The comedians are some of the finest sources of news and commentary.

Half-way to 99

Yes, modern attention spans are shorter than they were in 1517. I set about to write 99, and made it half way there. Clicking on each blue underlined word will take you to an article with more information.

Hovering over each link will produce a summary. You can't follow every link in one sitting, so don't try, but hover over the links that interest you for more information.

the original Occupy Wall Street Protester
  1. The "systemically dangerous" banks have gotten bigger.
  2. The 2007 Bailouts are part of a pattern: The bank that became Citigroup has been bailed out 4 times in the last 80 years.
  3. Prior to 2007, some regulators knew that some banks were "systemically dangerous"
  4. Banks are subsidized by giving them access to ultra-low interest rates.
  5. These low interest rates hurt savers (especially senior citizens).
  6. When the financial industry behaves recklessly, the cost is not just the initial bailout, but also the lost economic output and the human toll caused by the economic collapse.
  7. Banks can borrow money from the government at x % and then lend it back to the government at y %, "earning" a guaranteed profit, a hidden way the government recapitalizes the banks.
  8. I bailed out a bank and all I got was a new debit-card charge: Another way the public helps recapitalize the banks.
  9. The accounting rules were changed during the financial crisis to allow the Banks to hide their losses.
  10. Relaxed accounting rules allow banks to avoid realistically assessing the value of their loans, using a technique called "extend and pretend".
  11. Bribery has been legalized by ruling that corporations are people, with free speech rights, hence the right to make unlimited cash "donations".
  12. If corporations are people, why can't we lock them in jail when they break the law?
  13. Senator Dick Durban has admitted that The Banks "frankly own the place".
  14. The problem is systemic, and starts with the money.
  15. "The ability of a presidential candidate to tap into Wall Street money is critical because the financial-services sector, despite the turmoil of recent years, remains the single largest pool of campaign cash."
  16. Banks make large profits from charging their customers tricky fees
  17. Banks try to get their customers to overdraw their account so that they can charge fees; and they count the money in a tricky way that increases the amount of the overdraft fees they assess.
  18. Some banks deliberately set their payment due dates on weekends and holidays, and at times that are deliberately designed to increase the number of people whose payments are received late.
  19. The US banks have lobbied to block and impede the creation of an effective watchdog organization.
  20. The financial industry spends huge sums of money lobbying the government not to regulate or investigate them.
  21. Wall Street has been able to weaken SEC regulation and investigations. The SEC has systematically destroyed files collected during preliminary investigations, including investigations into Lehman brothers and Bernie Madoff.
  22. Goldman Sachs helped Greece misrepresent the true state of their financial health and made a profit while putting the financial system at risk.
  23. Wall Street firms should clean up their act and reward whistleblowers within their own firms.
  24. Financial firms created products that they knew were bad so that they could bet against them: The "Magnetar Trade" = A bet against the American Dream

    This financial strategy resembles the Mel Brooks musical: The Producers

    Bet Against The American Dream from Planet Money on Vimeo.

  25. Its not just "Caveat Emptor", Wall Street has a mentality of "fair fraud" : "We ripped those guys off 'fair and square'."
  26. AIG was bailed out because they offered an undercapitalized form of quasi insurance on these bad bets.
  27. Unlike normal bankruptcies, the governement paid AIG's quasi insurance holders the full amount because the collapse of large systemically dangerous banks threatened to create a dangerous depression.
  28. Corporations deliberately deceived their employees and Congress to profit from workers' pensions.
    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    Ellen Schultz
    Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook
  29. Alan Greenspan said that though he did not assume that corporate leaders would act in the interests of the public, he was surprised that they did not act in the interests of their own shareholders. If someone like Greenspan can question whether corporate governance works for corporations, can it be surprising that the public questions whether it works for them.
  30. Wall Street has fought and "watered down" the Volcker Rule: Protest Sign
  31. Banks that take deposits from regular depositors should not be able to speculate on their own behalf.
  32. Banks that are too small to qualify for special treatment are also hurt by unfair competition from their systemically-dangerous competitors.
  33. It is wrong that some businesses may feel the need to "donate" to a political cause just to get their voice heard.
  34. Special tax rates for Hedge Fund Managers are indefensible.
  35. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax play may be sloppy, but tax simplification would reduce corruption.
  36. Laws should be authored transparently by legislators, not ghostwritten by lobbyists.
  37. Wall Street people who don't understand there is a problem are living in a bubble.
  38. Away, then, with apologists for a broken system.
  39. Away, then, with those who stand in the way of fixing the system.
  40. Trust is Necessary for a Stable Economy
  41. There is honor in demonstrating peacefully, and winning hearts and minds.
  42. Everyone needs to make concessions, but the concessions should be for the long-term, not immediate austerity.
  43. Some journalists have done a great job covering Wall Street and putting things in context. Lets have some more please!

  44. We are the #99reasons

How to Email this to a Friend

Click on the White envelope to email this to a friend.