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Time: For economic’s sake, be single on Valentine’s Day

February 11, 2015 — 

U of M’s Neil McArthur, philosophy professor and associate director of the U of M’s Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, writes about ethical issues surrounding sex and love (his blog). He recently wrote a column for Time magazine with colleague Marina Adshade, author of Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love.

A brief excerpt:

From an economic perspective, the value of Valentine’s Day is that it creates an environment in which those in relationships can get information about how committed their partner is. Of course, we look for this information throughout the year, but February 14 is the one day when you have to show your hand. From this perspective, Valentine’s Day is a massive coordinated effort in which men and women have little choice but to spend time and money to assure their partners that they are loved.

And boy do they spend. The National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend a total of $19 billion on Valentine’s giving this year. That averages out to $142 per person celebrating the holiday.

But it is not just the expense that makes it better to be single on Valentine’s Day. To understand why you are better off unattached, it is best to think of gift giving on this day as a type of Prisoner’s Dilemma, the outcome of which determines whether or not a person wants to stay in a relationship.


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