Society and popular thought consider those who are single and unmarried to be naturally selfish. One influential person is Eric Klinenberg who wrote an article for The American Interest called Selfishness as Virtue in response to the book Going Solo, which he called the book’s premise “nonsense.” Unfortunately, that is how people view those who are single and not dating as living a nonsensical life. But is that the case? No. Contrary to Klinenberg and popular culture, singles are not selfish and they do in fact contribute to society.
Klinenberg’s main problem with singles, compared to couples, is that they do not transfer social reproduction to future generations. What Klinenberg means by social reproduction is both the biological act of having children and transferring values from parents to children to maintain the moral foundation of society. While he is partially correct that parents are initially responsible for transferring morality and ethics to the next generation that is not completely true. Individuals, after they have grown up, can choose to reject the teachings of their parents and decide to follow the moral teachings of a philosophy, religion, or culture. For this reason, Klinenberg’s arguments against expressive individualism fail because the individual is ultimately responsible for how they live their life rather than being told by parents, friends, or the state how to best live one’s own life. Despite that reason, Klinenberg and others will still hold to the belief that singles are selfish.
As someone who is not interested in not dating or getting married, I have heard variations of the above argument mostly from past generations (but not from Millennials). Essentially; I have been told that I am selfish because I am delaying marriage to pursue higher education, enter the growing field of information assurance, and because I may not want to stay long-term in Denver rather than settling down. Additionally, I have been told that I should get married because single people tend make less compared to couples. While that the latter fact is true, that is because of the additional benefits that couples receive from being married both in the work place and from the government as well as potentially two people working compared to one. Those policies are in place because the reasoning made above by Klinenberg and others that marriage provides an inherent good to society that single cannot provide has won out in public policy and discourse. If those tax and other policies were repealed, it would be a large step towards making those who are single and unmarried more equal towards those who are married. There are more ways to contribute to society than only having and raising children.
Those who are single and unmarried contributions are often overlooked by society. Singles are more likely to volunteer and to help their aging parents compared to couples. Does this still mean that singles are selfish since they do not have children? There are many ways to contribute to society, but having children remains on a pedestal compared to the other multitude of options. Single have more time compared to those who are married which allows them to volunteer and invest their time in things that are of interest to them and to give back to society with their time, talent, and money. Those are all good ways things too!
Society should decide to support and respect individuals’ choices to remain single and unmarried rather than telling them that they will only be respected if they are married. All of the single and unmarried people need to be part of the solution to resolving this problem by explaining to others how singles actually give back to society. While there is nothing wrong with being married, the popular perception that single are selfish needs to stop. Singles are not selfish. Singles are people just like everyone else.