Credentialism refers to the increasing reliance on formal certificates as an indicator of competence in any job or profession, and the increasing number of certificates one must possess to get permission from The Regulator to pursue their chosen profession. This, in turn, has given rise to a market in which all types of certificates can be purchased online. This saves the purchaser from the need to invest any time or effort in amassing the various certificates needed for professional success, as it takes them only seconds to buy their credentials (or the prerequisites) on the great world wide web where you can buy anything you want.
There seems to be a consensus that the best way to determine competence in any line of work is to ask for certificates, the more the better. Gone are the days when you needed to do a job competently, to prove that you can do it! Now, you just need to rock up with a certificate that certifies your competence.
For example, if you want to prove your capabilities as a crime-fighter, you have to show that you sat in a university lecture hall for three years at taxpayer expense, being taught how to fight crime by a lecturer who has never encountered an actual crime in his life, let alone fought it:
Predictably, the rise of credentialism has given rise to a market in which gathering up certificates 'Has Successfully Completed the Certificate in Fighting Crime' offers a better ROI than actually bothering to do anything or learn anything.
The trouble is, it takes a huge amount of time and effort to acquire university credentials. Hours of slog work in the library, followed by a painstaking process of writing and rewriting that will take an eternity, leaving you with a fevered brain and carpal tunnel syndrome, plus backache from hunching over your computer. You will emerge from your writing lair to find that all your friends have deserted you, because of how boring you are, spending all your time writing essays yourself in the old fashioned way like a dinosaur who has never heard of the internet.
How convenient, then, that there are anonymous people on the internet offering to do all the research and write bespoke essays ready for sale! All the smart student needs to do is commission the essay, pay for it (with bitcoin, obviously) study it carefully to make sure you understand it (to allay suspicion if you're accused of academic fraud and forced to swear that you wrote it yourself - you can't confidently claim that you wrote it if you didn't even bother to read it before handing it in) and thus painlessly obtain the requisite degree credentials that employers want. It's no wonder that universities in the UK want to ban anonymous people from writing brilliant essays and selling them on the dark web.
Solving problems by campaigning for people to be banned from selling stuff on the internet is one way to resolve this, I suppose, and we could possibly go a step further and ban the internet altogether, to stop people selling harmful stuff on it. Ban anonymous payment mechanisms, while you're at it. This is probably why cash is soon to be abolished, because it's really hard to trace fraudsters when they pay for things in cash.
But there is another way. In highly regulated labour markets where employers are demanding increasingly higher credentials, it is inevitable that there will be a market for people to take shortcuts. Instead, why not just allow nurses, hairdressers, plumbers, and even lawyers, to ply their trade or pursue their calling with no need for a raft of certified credentials?
Even the lovely Kim Kardashian should be free to have a go at being a lawyer if she wants to, even though she's not known for her academic credentials: good luck to her with her apprenticeship and caveat emptor, I say, to anyone who chooses to be her client. The gate-keeping protectionist function of credentials, using certificates to decide who can join the regulated professions, is hugely costly and of doubtful utility.
Hide-the-ball Socratic dialogue is great fun, it must be said, although admittedly a very expensive form of fun at three years' full time study and a huge amount of student debt. In the original Socratic model all the sage did was sit under a tree and wax eloquent to any passers by who wanted to stop for a parry. Nobody had to sign up for three years of compulsory study with periodic exams, and nor did they wind up with more credentials after they finished chatting with Socrates. Wiser, yes; credentialed, not so much.
It's also clear that credentialism, which is bad enough, leads to an even worse thing: the 'credentialocracy'. As described by Christopher Caldwell in The Age of Entitlement (great book, google it, and see page 272, referring to 'Yale and other outposts of the American credentialocracy') a credentialocracy is a system in which the credentialed have ultimate power to dictate society's ideals and moral code. To enforce this code they have power to 'no-platform' or 'cancel' anybody who doesn't agree with them and do exactly as they say. Being cancelled means the twitterati descend on you, denounce you as unwoke, and before you know it, you're fired. Now you have no voice, and even worse, no income. That sucks. The point of an education was to expand your knowledge and learning (and, dare I say, tolerance), not to give you power to have other people fired because they dared to see the world differently from you, and pretty much licence you to treat the uncredentialled with smugness and intolerance.
Acquiring credentials feels deeply satisfying, I do know that as I have a raft of them myself, but they are merely landmarks along the path to knowledge and wisdom.
Scholar, Writer, Friend