What Does Qualified Even Mean?

The world is organized to confuse us, then sell us things and have us work for free. There is good news: much of philosophy concerns how our unreflective habits of thought and action distort our experience of the world.

The primary nugget I want convey is that due to the complicated play of ideology, money, and power working through our media, we are confused. We lack the ability to speak plainly about our normative standards.

We Don’t Know What Qualified Means.

Does Clinton have the capacity and disposition to wield government in a way that promotes institutions of freedom?

That’s the question. It’s a contested concern. We‘ll arrive at different answers concerning this question, but let us not get this wrong. The question at issue is whether she has what it takes to wield government to promote institutions of freedom. That is what governing in a democracy is. To set up a world where rational autonomy can be at home, without being submerged under fetters of coercive dogma or coercive hunger. The particulars of what this looks like depends on the particulars of the pre-modern hell from which we are trying to let freedom escape.

This sounds dogmatic, but the ability to promote institutions of self-determination is the only self-consistent source we have to separate good government from bad government, right from oppression. Every other standard that poses as a normative standard relies on some dogma that cannot be rationally examined and is thereby imposed on a skeptical mind.

Modernity aims at 1) families who are emancipated from the sways of kinship, “No, Dad, I don’t have to be a dentist because you were a dentist. Mom, I don’t have to stay home with the kids because you did,” 2) a market society that allows us to buy and work where we want to buy and work in a way that is moderated by society’s needs, and 3) a political sphere that allows us the freedom to come together as equal citizens and hash out laws so that our market society does not impose undo demands on our other modes of freedom, e.g., household labor.

This is a normative project, unfinished and always struggling to promote institutions of right over institutions of oppression.

Clinton’s qualifications are not about the titles she earned. Titles are simply conditions. They allow people to promote freedom AND/OR oppression. Titles are like a police officer’s badge. Good police officers have badges, and bad police officers have badges. That’s what makes them good or bad police officers.

To talk about Clinton’s qualifications, let’s take Secretaries George Marshall and Henry Kissinger.

At different points in their careers, they used their titles to promote institutions of freedom and institutions of oppression. The balance of where they ended is a contested discussion, but what ought not be contested is that the normative standard of whether they did their job is whether they used the government to effectively promote institutions of freedom over prevailing institutions of oppression.

In this late spring, people are graduating. Many, I suspect, are going to confuse their degrees for qualifications. Degrees may be conditions for action, that is, the world will not let you do certain things if you don’t have the appropriate paperwork, but whether these diplomas are qualifications turns on whether you are disposed to marshal these conditions in ways that promote institutions of freedom.