2015-11-12 – Sen. Marco Rubio raised an interesting question at this week’s Republican presidential candidate debate when he said that the United States needs “more welders and less philosopher.”
Liberal response has been predictable: Don’t dis our philosophers! Good grief!
I know two welders.
One of these welders is my brother-in-law. A few years ago he used his welding skills to help us build a wrought-iron fence for our yard and he used the opportunity to show my boys a little about the welding trade. I was around to watch one of the days. Welding is quite complex and exacting.
At one point during the day, my brother-in-law said to me: “Hey Steve, I bet you didn’t know that I have a PHD.” I said I didn’t. He said, “Yeah! In fact, it’s in the truck. Do you mind going to get it?”
It was his post-hole digger. He needed it to set the posts for our fence.
My brother-in-law is now retired and uses his skills as a sculptor. He’s very articulate about unions and politics and recently was asked to run for political office. I throw in these facts because lots of you don’t respect welding as a profession, but do you honor artists and politicians. He has done all of it.
The other welder I know is—surprise!—a woman. I don’t know much about her welding career because I met her in a music store. She is the owner. She bought a dark and dingy music store and revitalized it. She started running music lessons out of the store, which only sold instruments before, and now it is a lively place where her students give recitals and concerts.
Not your stereotypes of welders, are they? I’d love to hear stories about philosophers who weld on the side . . . But of course, my two welders are philosophers who weld on the side.
When Rubio said that we need more welders and fewer philosophers, it was because “welders make more money than philosophers.” Or so he says. Fact checkers at the Washington Post responded: “Sorry, Marco Rubio. Philosophy majors actually make way more than welders.”
Now, this story raises my hackles for two reason—aside from the presumed wages of welders as compared to philosophers.
The first problem is that Sen. Rubio was really trying to claim blue-collar workers for the Republicans. This has been going on at least since Ronald Reagan. And Democrats seem to have little to say except “Don’t dis our philosophers!”
Democrats complain that workers vote against their interest when they vote Republican, but when a chance comes to show that we are not elitists, well . . . we show that we are elitists. Don’t dis our philosophers! If Democrats could get over this, it would be all over. Republicans got nothing but lip service to America’s workers. But lip services is better than disdain.
The second problem with the controversy is the assumption that the value of welders or philosophers to society is solely based on how much they make.
Now, I’m not going to try to devise some alternative societal measure of worth. I’m going to leave it to the individual.
If you like welding, it’s a valuable occupation. If you like philosophizing, it’s also a valuable occupation. Part of what makes these occupations attractive (or not) is the amount you can earn doing them. But there are a lot of other factors. You may like figuring out how things work; then, you might like to be a welder. You may like figuring out how society works; then, you might like to be a philosopher.
If you like both, you can be both a welder and a philosopher.
I don’t know if Sen. Rubio is a philosopher, but I’m pretty sure he’s not a welder.