Should a College Degree Be a Requirement For Those Aspiring to Preside Over a Country?

A debate between PanAm Post co-editor-in-chief Orlando Avendaño and editor Emmanuel Rincon generated multiple reactions on social networks. Here is the transcript of the debate

Rafael Caldera, former president of Venezuela, takes office for his first term in office (Rafael Caldera).


Over the weekend, a debate began on social media, motivated by a tweet in which Emmanuel Rincon, editor of the PanAm Post, proposed that in the future the Venezuelan Constitution should mandate that citizens aspiring to run for legislative and executive elected office have college degrees. The proposal soon went viral and received many responses for and against it.

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Additionally, Emmanuel Rincon asserted the need to create a university to train civil servants.

Many voices joined the debate. They shared their point of view regarding the original proposal. Some even added more conditions to secure the electoral nomination. Others said that the control should be on voters. Another large group opposed the measure for various reasons.

The discussion provoked a new tweet that restarted the debate.

Orlando Avanedaño, co-editor-in-chief of the PanAm Post holds a view contradictory to the proposal of Rincon the latter initiate the debate on social media.

From there began an exchange of arguments that we have transcribed below:

Emmanuel Rincon: What does one have to do with the other? No one is saying that education cleans minds or prevents criminal behavior, but it is merely a minimum requirement for access to a role that requires preparation, whereby, the decisions affect millions of people.

Orlando Avendaño: The requirement won’t at all solve what you want to solve. Instead, you will generate a very damaging dynamic: sale of degree titles, bribes, and so on. What you have is that, with education, you prepare citizens so that they don’t venture out with a madman (whether or not he has a degree).

ER: In that case, we shouldn’t establish laws because there will be people who break them anyway; we need to have a constitution because it won’t resolve all problems; why do we have a legal system? Let’s educate the country and not have laws. That will be enough.

OA: The comparison is absurd. In what way does a person coming to power without a degree attack the individual? We impose the rule of law to protect the individual, life, and property, not to limit people’s actions.

ER: It is your approach that let’s not have parameters because people can be corrupt and break the rules. That is what you just wrote. Also, no one is limiting anyone’s political rights. Do you want to hold public office? Prepare, study, or do something else; it is very straightforward.

OA: What you are suggesting is regulating the aspiration to hold public office. Your approach is no different from a statist who believes that more laws make society function better. I think that similar to other prohibitions you aren’t solving anything; instead, you are creating additional problems.

ER: ER: The legitimate aspiration to public office must be based on a genuine ability to exercise power. Otherwise, it is an attack on national welfare. It is very easy to speak eloquently and convince the masses. However, it is not very easy to have the necessary tools to execute the promises. That’s what the law is for,

OA: That is up to you as a citizen. I, as a citizen, can legitimately believe that someone with a bachelor degree from Oxford and a Master degree from Yale is not necessarily capable of holding public office; for example, Hillary Clinton, Rafael Correa, Pedro Sanchez, among many others.

ER: The rule of law can regulate this. It is the reason why societies establish legal systems. Subjective examples don’t mean anything unless statistics back them. If you want to be objective, look up the data of the success of professionals holding degrees and non-professionals at the political level.

OA: It is for the same reason that sensible societies tend to elect professionals with extensive academic backgrounds. Not because it is the law, but because they have the aptitude to understand that these people will have the experiences they expect from their administrators.

ER: Society may also choose to demand a basic academic level to gain access to high-level public office. It is not the state that is regulating. The citizens are constructing a legal framework to curb ineptitude and promote meritocracy.

OA: You are proposing that the citizens should regulate through the state. You speak using euphemisms. I suggest that citizens exercise their civic responsibility.

ER: No, you’ve got the legal concepts quite wrong. It is not going to be the citizenry that regulates through the state; it is going to be the constitution. And the constitution is above all else. It is the regulating entity par excellence, the ultimate expression of the citizenry.

OA: When you have a socialist demagogue with a degree, authorized to contest elections, and a capable entrepreneur who favors markets, but he isn’t eligible, you will lament your proposal. I would have preferred a Steve Jobs as president than Clinton who graduated from Yale.

ER: Your argument is invalid and silly. I could put it the other way around; this situation would invalidate Maduro and approve of Jeff Bezos. You’re trying to use subjective examples to defend your position. Therefore, your argument has no head or foot.

OA: You’re the one who doesn’t understand. Also, what you say makes me right: the responsibility lies with the citizen. The state shouldn’t be imposing regulations. Both cases illustrate very well that what you propose will be of no use.

ER: It is not the state; the constitution is the supreme law and is above the state.

OA: You believe in using laws that can shape society and you end up with dangerous propositions. After prohibiting those without professional degrees from participating, you can easily say that those who aren’t from your favorite university cannot participate either.

ER: Laws, of course, shape society. It is the first principle of Roman Law. From there, all legal systems of the world are born. The law is the ultimate expression of the citizenry. It is the social contract that regulates human relations.

OA: That is a terrible notion of how societies must function. You speak of Rousseau, who rejects any liberal principle, or any principle of liberty inherent to men. It is the legitimacy of the state over the individual.

ER: Once again, it is not the state. It is the constitution. You should then ask to abolish the entire judicial system of Venezuela, and the citizens can function as per their individual principles; see how that works for you.

OA: You are demonstrating that you have no idea how the rule of law should work under the principles that we apparently defend. It works to reform the system, not to impose regulations as you would love, but to protect the individual. Check the American system.

ER: According to your principles, not mine, I don’t adhere to labels.

The debate culminated with comments added by several citizens who participated in it. Some supported the position to establish minimum requirements for nomination, and others rejected the idea. Beyond determining the winner of the debate or which reasoning turned out to be the most appropriate, many also highlighted the fact that they could discuss ideas without being discredited and respecting the opposing points of view; a mirror of what democracy should be.

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