Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s political posturing on the relative value of philosophers and welders to our society is actually pretty silly.
During a presidential debate, he remarked, “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”
For starters, his judgment is based on bad data. Politifact dug into salary statistics and determined that philosophers earn more over their careers than welders.
The average mid-career pay for philosophy majors hovers around $85,000 per year, while the median wage for welders is $37,420, Politifact reported.
And the gap grows on the high end with the top 10 percent of welders bringing home about $58,590 and the top 10 percent of philosophy professors making $190,000 or more.
Philosophy majors go on to enjoy productive careers in business, law, medicine and other noble pursuits.
We need more thinkers
Actually, we need more coders and data scientists. The challenges and opportunities being created by big data far outstrip the current supply of talent.
According to some estimates, our universities will only produce 400,000 graduates for 1.4 million new programming jobs over the next decade.
But there may be something more sinister at work here. When Rubio and other politicians devalue philosophers, what they’re really doing is attacking people who dare to think for themselves and challenge the status quo.
The theories I developed as a philosophy student underpin everything we do at XANT, a $1 billion-plus company that is transforming the way organizations analyze and use data to sell their products and services.
Based on Aristotelian logic and principles of epistemology, I knew we could identify patterns in the data that would allow us to make more accurate predictions about people’s preferences and behaviors.
In fact, I hired one of my favorite philosophy professors from Brigham Young University. Dr. James Siebach developed Sales Indicator, a cloud-based hiring assessment tool that predicts a sales rep’s quota attainment before that rep is even hired.
Strategic thinking is the driving force behind our company’s success. Dave Boyce uses the analytical skills he acquired while studying philosophy as an undergraduate to run our consulting group.
We aren’t the only tech company led by philosophers.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, who is disrupting the communications space with innovative messaging technology, exemplifies the successful use of philosophical thinking.
LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman earned a master’s in philosophy at Oxford.
Google made Damon Horowitz its in-house philosopher after acquiring his company, Aardvark, for $50 million.
These companies employ more than 65,000 workers combined and generate billions of dollars for the U.S. economy.
Business Insider highlighted other famous executives who majored in philosophy, including PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne.
Wherefore art thou, Rubio?
Nobody would dispute Rubio’s point that we need to invest more in vocational education. But he doesn’t need to devalue philosophy on national TV to make that assertion.
We do need welders, as well as butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, nurses, teachers, cartographers, dance instructors, Christmas tree farmers, dog groomers and sandwich specialists.
We also need independent, analytical, creative thinkers who reject lazy, status-quo thinking and disprove the critics who claim we can’t solve the world’s biggest challenges.
Any human activity that relies on rational thought owes a debt to philosophy. Business, economics, medicine, law and the sciences all require an understanding of logic and reason.
Honestly, I’m pretty sure Rubio understands this. But, just in case he needs a little refresher, I’m sending him a signed copy of this article along with a copy of Organon, a collection of Aristotle’s six works on logic.