October 22nd, 2020

Quid pro quo part of orderly society

By Letter to the Editor on December 13, 2019.

Most media make it sound as if quid pro quo is a terrible mistake. However, voluntary quid pro quo agreements are part of contracts, purchases and orderly society: Party A provides certain goods, services and conduct to Party B, who responds with appropriate pay or action toward Party A.

Driving safely is a quid pro quo agreement: you drive on your side of the road and I on mine, thus avoiding head-on collision. In their marriage vows, bride and groom promise love for love and fidelity for fidelity. In a grocery store, there is a conditional agreement: If clients pay a certain amount, they can take the goods in their cart home.

Members of parliament are elected, and cabinet ministers are sworn in, on a quid pro quo basis: public support for rendering services. All hiring is done on this principle: service for pay; all buying, too: goods for money.

No agreement between countries is unconditional. America’s interaction with North Korea is based on conditions from both sides: If North Korea destroys its nuclear weapons, America will lift its sanctions, resulting in economic growth for North Korea – a clear quid pro quo.

In view of the everyday use of quid pro quo, it is not a conditional agreement with Ukraine per se that may harm the president, but the alleged harm it could incur on a political opponent.

In our tit-for-tat society, quid pro quo sometimes takes the form of bribe or blackmail. When the motive of one party is hostile, and the other party is forced to do what it doesn’t want to do, then favour-for-favour is replaced by a threat-for-favour. A bribe offers a reward for compliance, and blackmail threatens with punishment for non-compliance.

While bribe and blackmail are illegal and mean, the “carrot and stick” approach is legitimate and benevolent, showing what we may gain or lose when making decisions. Choices are seldom perfect; each option has pros and cons.

Since childhood, we learn that choices – like observing rules or not – have consequences. Parents and children, too, are in a quid pro quo situation.

Jacob Van Zyl


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