February 10, 2012

Where Credentialism Gets You

Filed under: Food and Farms, Freedom, Law, Neo-feudalism, Reformism Can't Work — Tags: — Russ @ 9:10 am


I haven’t yet fully collected my thoughts on the organic food credential, and how we need to get “beyond organic” as Joel Salatin and others insist. (I fully agree, of course.)
For today I’ll just make a brief observation on credentialism in general, and the mechanism by which it destroys democracy and imposes oligopoly.
Today’s example is the American Dietetic Association, a corporate front group funded by the likes of Coca-Cola, Merck, and the National Dairy Council among others. It’s now seeking to achieve monopoly over nutrition counseling at the state level, by the device of state laws restricting market access.

Have you ever wondered why much of the food served to patients in hospitals is highly processed and unhealthy? Or why school lunches at public schools are often loaded with refined flours, sugars, and other toxic ingredients and additives? The American Dietetic Association (ADA), a junk food- and drug industry-funded organization composed of “food and nutrition professionals” that hold heavy influence on the nation’s dietary habits, is largely to blame — and this group is now actively trying to legislate its way into having a complete nutrition monopoly in at least six U.S. states and counting.

The Alliance for Natural Health – USA (ANH-USA) says that proposed bills in California, New York, Indiana, New Jersey, Colorado, and West Virginia seek to restrict nutrition counseling and services only to ADA-registered dietitians. This means that qualified nutritionists, many of whom are far more educated than many RDs, would no longer be allowed to become licensed, which means they would no longer be able to provide nutrition counseling.

[Several of these bills have apparently already been shot down, but for as long as the rackets exist the bills will keep coming back until they pass.]
Nutrition counseling is a transitional stopgap at best; the goal is for eaters of food to become fully educated and responsible food citizens. A nutrition counselor with integrity looks to the day he can help abolish his own job. But given the overwhelming propaganda of the current system, all the Big Lies about food which constantly bombard us, it’s understandable if lots of people are confused and seek advice from outside the system. The purpose of these laws is to criminalize such advice, instead legalizing only system-approved, system-credentialed “advice”.
This brings us to a general observation. There’s lots of areas where formal credentials are in principle a good idea (that is, given system premises and technology; but we don’t actually need, for example, pilots or planes to exist at all). But in practice the goal is always the following motion:
1. Convince people, through arguments like “safety”, “quality of work”, etc., or various criteria like those which constitute the USDA organic credential, that a credential regime is necessary and needs to be mandatory. At first pretend this regime is to be non-ideological and in accord with a free market. (But in practice these are always compromised from the start.)
2. Once the credential regime is entrenched, once people are at least psychologically dependent upon it, then the system moves to turn it into a corporate enforcement mechanism. We’ve been seeing how the USDA organic credential is under constant assault, and the recent “co-existence” campaign even envisions rendering GMOs as qualified for organic certification. At that point truly organic farmers would be destroyed, as they’d be unable to differentiate themselves from bogus “organic” operations. To some extent this is already true. The organic credential is completely insensitive to fossil fuel use in general (it cares about fossil fuel only where it comes to some direct farming inputs), and therefore in itself tells the citizen little about the food’s sustainability, or its place in the struggle of globalization vs. relocalization, its place in the big economic and political picture.
The same gambit is being tried here with this nutrition counseling credential. People are induced to believe one needs a formal credential to dispense good nutritional advice. Then the credential is restricted to those who will do nothing but propagate the corporate party line, and otherwise conform to the system’s demands. The result is that credentialism becomes a weapon of corporate tyranny.
I’ll add as an appendix that the modern economy imposed a similar, but far more vast and cataclysmic, pattern with the “employment” model. Here the pattern has been:
1. Impose the employer-employment model (something completely new in history) as the norm. Everyone has to get “a job” working for “a boss”. This way of doing things is allegedly permanent.
2. Once everyone has internalized this notion, then systematically degrade and destroy the jobs. Permanent employment becomes, increasingly, permanent unemployment for an ever-larger mass.
3. Amid this atmosphere of desperation and confusion, re-establish the old forms of feudalism and antiquity – debt indenture, serfdom, and eventually, if necessary, formal slavery.
Regardless of the magnitude of the example, “jobs” or credentials, the pattern is the same: We’re brainwashed into believing that something superfluous and usually destructive, something which was politically chosen by elites and then artificially imposed on us from the top down, is some kind of law of nature or reason, something we need, something which at any rate allows us no alternative.
But there’s always an alternative, usually a simple, straightforward one, as soon as we take the blinders off our eyes. 



  1. How true. One sees the extent of this brainwashing when people assume parents who homeschool their children
    must be certified to do so.
    A friend of mine was briefly contemplating pursuing a career in nursing, and discovered (at least in this state) one must first obtain a totally unrelated college degree. I think it was a BA, but I don’t recall-as someone who decided not to go to college, I can’t keep that alphabet soup straight. Anyway, the degree added absolutely no real value to the practice of nursing. It appears to be another way of extorting money from people who wish to do a valuable and necessary service; in the process, no doubt it sifts out those who for many reasons cannot jump through this hoop but would be dedicated nurses.

    Wonderful to see you doing all these posts, Russ 🙂

    Comment by DualPersonality — February 10, 2012 @ 10:15 am

    • Hi DP,

      I thought of homeschooling and teacher credentials while I wrote this, as another example. An education degree is an especially useless system requirement, imposed solely to limit market access and extort rents for the banks and colleges. I knew lots of education majors when I was in college, and hoo boy you never saw such pointless courses. Everyone in that major considered it a joke.

      I don’t know as much about nursing credentialism, but I can picture it being the same. That’s a real profession requiring a rigorous practical training, but such a course still wouldn’t require the whole college shebang. It’s just like buying a new car, where the seller forces all kind of worthless, expensive frills as “standard”.

      There was also recently a flap in NJ about EMT or paramedic credentials, and how a pending bill wants to drive out volunteer units in favor of corporate welfare-bloated contractors. I haven’t heard recently about the disposition of that bill.

      (I had a minor personal run-in with this back when I worked as a lifeguard. There too one has to repeatedly jump through an expensive hoop in order to re-demonstrate simple skills. Of course, they also arbitrarily change some of the procedures every now and then, in order to try to justify the recertification requirements.)

      Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

      Comment by Russ — February 10, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    • Medicine and healthcare certification in general is pretty bizarre. An MD is explicitly an undergraduate degree everywhere, but I’m not aware of any schools in North America that allow admission without, at minumum, the completion of 3/4 years of an undergraduate degree (irrespective of the content of the degree). This is totally weird given that the first two years of an MD are basically 1st year undergraduate biology courses spread out over time. In Europe, medschool is generally direct entry at the undergraduate level, which makes a lot more sense.

      Comment by paper mac — February 11, 2012 @ 11:47 pm

      • The fact that for admission to various post-undergrad programs/schools, which undergrad degree the applicant holds seldom matters, proves that the whole requirement is a rent-seeking scam.

        Similar for jobs that require a college degree as such, but not for any practical reason. They’re probably trying to ensure that most applicants are debt-burdened and therefore more likely to be desperate and compliant.

        Comment by Russ — February 12, 2012 @ 2:00 am

  2. If you think credentialism is bad in the U.S., you should see it in France, where it is in the process of destroying our psychiatry.
    But the word “credentialism” contains “credence” which is related to credit, which is related to.. BELIEF and trust.
    What it boils down to is.. WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE OR TRUST ? Logical that there is so much nasty fighting about this, right ?
    Fighting over people’s HEARTS AND MINDS (and not just their filthy lucre).
    At some point down the line you MUST trust another person, because you just can’t do everything all by your lonesome.
    “The system” as I now like to call it, offered a certain number of jobs to people who needed to put meat and potatoes on the table.
    In France, the national education system employed MUCHO people in its… CHURCH ? SYSTEM ?
    At any rate, any educational system or setup is based on highly invested beliefs about education, and the FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN, an extremely epidermic topic, in case nobody has noticed.
    As one who had to sit and listen to some overly positivist and pragmatic earnest young crew cut American man ask me in a whining voice “what is an English major good for ?” (think… in another place and time, this well intentioned person MIGHT have sorted me out, and stuck me in the line OF USELESS MOUTHS who got brutally eliminated between 1939-45 you know where), I assign a very high value to LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION.
    Hell, you can learn to stick a needle into somebody’s arm in not such a long time.
    Not me. And since I home schooled my adult daughter for two years, to my delight, and hers, in a situation where we BOTH learned from each other, I am in favor of a good deal more not obviously useful education than what is currently being promoted in the U.S. and elsewhere.
    I think you’re right though.
    One which we are addicted to, and give great lip service to, moreoever.
    On the “everyone has to get a job with a boss”, I don’t agree.
    I think that WE promoted the salary model as a form of social insurance against precarity, and that WE, true to our never failing tendancy to follow the maxim “more of a good thing is always better”, decided to try to apply it all across the board TO ALL WORK.
    The employment model is interesting from the standpoint of an example I like to cite, Louis XV and Vaucanson, who set up the means to destroy the INDEPENDANT ARTISAN, creating a model where engineers supervised UNSKILLED LABOR.
    Judging from the fact that my then 10 year old daughter told us she wanted to become a string instrument maker, a.. METIER, not a job, where the ARTISAN controls the entire fabrication process from beginning to end, I would say that there are currently powerful forces at work to bring back.. THE OLD CORPORATIONS, the communities of artisans, guilds that were working before the industrial revolution.
    How else can you explain that…a 10 year old would light upon such an unlikely choice ? Neat, huh ?
    Salaried work seems to make people… undisciplined, and used to having somebody tell them what to do. (Not everybody, of course, but many people. This, of course, depends greatly on the type of work being done, too.)
    With an educational system that tends to produce.. SALARIED PEOPLE. From Scylla to Charybdis ?
    This, at any rate, is my analysis of what is going on in France, at this time.
    Can’t speak for the U.S., of course…

    Comment by Debra — February 10, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

    • We should believe and trust those in our community who have established a track record warranting such trust.

      Which is another way of saying we need to rebuild our communities, which means taking back our economies and polities.

      To become an independent entrepreneur is vastly better than to be a system cog, an “employee”. But vastly better than that is cooperative enterprise, which has been the natural form of human endeavor for the great majority of our history, and shall soon be our form once again, and for the rest of our species’ tenure.

      Comment by Russ — February 10, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

      • I agree with all of what you have written above except I feel the need to point out that competition is a very valuable force that is stimulating to us, and particularly stimulating and appropriate for younger men.
        It would really be too bad if in our current inability to stick things together we moved from mindless promotion of competition to.. mindless promotion of cooperation, in tried and true exclusive fashion.
        We need… BOTH.

        Comment by Debra — February 10, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

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