Martin Luther’s 95 theses to protest against catholic church vs. Steve Keen’s 33 thesis to protest against economics

Brilliant post by Frances Coppola.

How Prof Steve Keen who has long dissented against current economics teaching has taken a leaf from one one of the buggest dissents/protests in human history:

Five hundred years ago, so legend has it, a dissident priest called Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 “theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. His action launched the Protestant Reformation. 

Last week, the dissident economist Steve Keen “nailed” a list of 33 Theses to the door of the London School of Economics. His aim was to launch a Reformation in economics as significant as the religious Reformation that Luther started. It was a bold gesture.


However, Coppola finds the the 33 theses disappointingt:

But for such a movement to take hold, there has to be substance in the criticisms. And as I read the 33 Theses, my heart sank. For these are in no way like the 95 Theses.

Luther’s 95 Theses are a brilliantly argued academic case against the (then) Roman Catholic doctrine of indulgences, which was a clerical scheme for fleecing people of their money by promising them salvation. The money was supposed to go to the poor, but almost never did. Instead, it went to enrich both the sellers of indulgences and the Church itself. It was, in short, a protection racket.


Had the 33 Theses been so narrowly focused, and so deeply rooted in the fundamental teachings of economics, they would potentially have been equally devastating. But they aren’t. Rather than delivering a detailed critique of one aspect of mainstream (macro) economics, they skate across the surface of the entire field. And even more importantly, they seem intended not to remind the economics establishment of its own teaching, and call it to repent and reform, but to set out a completely different agenda. So, for example, Larry Elliot complains that “complex mathematics is used to mystify economics, just as congregations in Luther’s time were deliberately left in the dark by services conducted in Latin.” I don’t disagree – indeed I have complained myself about the way complex mathematics and economics jargon combine to make economists some sort of priestly caste. But the use of Latin in church services is simply not what Luther was complaining about. 

As I read the 33 Theses, I found myself becoming more and more disappointed. They don’t demonstrate enough scholarship to constitute a serious attack. Even worse, they don’t even clearly define what they are attacking. What does “neoclassical economics” even mean, or “mainstream economics”? The piece appears to use these terms interchangeably, but never defines them anywhere.

She says basically economics moved away from core values and thinkers. It is time to go back to them rather than get into this hostile debates:

I have been as critical as anyone of modern (macro)economics. I would like to be able to support these 33 Theses. But in conscience, I can’t. They are not the devastating critique of modern economics that they claim to be. They are simply a hostile takeover bid. I want modern economics to repent and reform, not be replaced with another flawed paradigm.

So I reject the 33 Theses as they stand, and I call on the authors to repent and return to the true faith of Adam Smith, Ricardo, Wicksell, Walras, Keynes, and many others upon whose shoulders we stand.



5 Responses to “Martin Luther’s 95 theses to protest against catholic church vs. Steve Keen’s 33 thesis to protest against economics”

  1. Martin Luther King's 95 theses to protest against catholic church vs. Steve Keen's 33 thesis to protest against economics | Me Stock Broker Says:

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  2. Martin Luther King’s 95 theses to protest against catholic church vs. Steve Keen’s 33 thesis to protest against economics – Courtier en Bourse Says:

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  3. Jim Rose Says:

    Yes. The 33 thesese seem to be ignorant of numerous fields of economics including public choice, law and economics, new institutional economics, property rights economics, constitutional political economy, new economic history, new monetarist macroeconomics, modern labour economics, resource and environmental economics, economics of information and uncertainty name a few.

    Writing a point by point rebuttal focusing on mentioning the economic fields ignored.

  4. Jarod Tejedor Says:

    What a brilliant article. I’m currently learning all about Thesis and sharing my experience as I go in my blog. Every time I come across something helpful I like to leave a comment of thanks as it both helps me to progress my site AND also give me ideas and content to add for my journey through this learning process.

  5. Andrew Denis Says:

    What has this to do with Martin Luther King?

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