Philosophers, Welders and Income: Some New Data…

in Blog
November 13th, 2015

Philosophers were surprisingly pulled into the spotlight at the recent Republican debate, called out by senator Marco Rubio in response to a question about raising the minimum wage.

From The New York Times transcription:

CAVUTO: Senator Rubio, you called the recent Democratic debate in Las Vegas a night of giveaways, including free health care, free college and a host of other government-paid benefits. Since you aren’t a fan of all they’re giving away, tell us tonight what you would take back.

RUBIO: We call that the American dream, but in fact, it’s a universal dream of a better life that people have all over the world. It is a reminder that every country in the world has rich people.

What makes America special is that we have millions and millions of people that are not rich, that through hard work and perseverance are able to be successful.

The problem is that today people are not successful working as hard as ever because the economy is not providing jobs that pay enough. If I thought that raising the minimum wage was the best way to help people increase their pay, I would be all for it, but it isn’t. In the 20th century, it’s a disaster.

If you raise the minimum wage, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine. And that means all this automation that’s replacing jobs and people right now is only going to be accelerated.

Here’s the best way to raise wages. Make America the best place in the world to start a business or expand an existing business, tax reform and regulatory reform, bring our debt under control, fully utilize our energy resources so we can reinvigorate manufacturing, repeal and replace Obamacare, and make higher education faster and easier to access, especially vocational training. For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.


If we do that — and if we do this — if we do this, we will be able to increase wages for millions of Americans and we will be able to leave everyone better off without making anyone worse off.

At face value we can say that Marco Rubio is wrong about Philosophers making less than Welders– according to Payscale:

PayScale Graph showing Philosophy Majors and Welding Associates holders

Of course, if Senator Rubio had done any research on, say, why one might study philosophy, he would find that Philosophers aren’t shoehorned into any specific role in an ever changing economy. They are adaptable problem solvers. What will a philosophy major do when her job is overrun by automation? She may not be sure, but she’s probably better off than a (non-philosopher) welder will be when automated welding arrives.