Welcome to my twenty-fifth blog post. It’s hard to believe I have written that many posts in less than two months, yet here we are. I remember writing my first blog entry…
Enough of that. I want to dive into a social/societal question today. I don’t intend to push your mind towards politics with this, though it may drift in that direction for you. Instead, it’s a topic that I’ve thought about a great deal over the last year without being able to reconcile why it’s so divisive.
I’m talking about quid pro quo.
In Latin, the phrase means “something for something.” When the topic came up for President Trump’s first impeachment (even saying that phrase sounds crazy: first impeachment), it became something that folks around the country took an interest in. Naturally, journalists offered articles for their readers to brush up on its meaning and usage. This transcript of an interview from 2019 provides some historical context.
The phrase came into usage in English in the 16th century. It was a quasi-technical term, meaning a substitution of a particular drug from an apothecary. Being a substitution, when the good druggist told you he only had the quo and not the quid, you might eye him leerily, not knowing what to expect of the compound he had concocted for you.
This may be the beginning of the term’s pejorative journey. Around the same time, lawyers began using the phrase. While it could refer to a benign exchange of goods or services, it perpetuated the harmful stereotype or image conjured up whenever we hear quid pro quo.
I want to redirect the rest of our time here away from the term’s more negative image. The very idea of bartering—me giving you something in exchange for something you have provided, or will give, to me—predates currency. Moreover, this is a widely used and accepted practice among almost everyone. It is precious when people lack the cash flow to meet their needs.
For example, one farmer might have a broken tractor while another needs help shocking wheat. The farmer with the broken tractor can arrange to help his neighbor shock wheat to receive help fixing his broken tractor. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find farm communities anywhere across the country that don’t still exchange goods or services with local neighbors as a means of payment. I suspect you wouldn’t convince many that what they’re doing is frowned upon.
Nearly every business uses some form of quid pro quo. Perhaps the only group that genuinely despises this practice is the IRS because they can’t get a cut of something traded privately between two parties. Call me crazy, I just can’t see anything wrong with being neighborly and getting something in return. After all, human interactions are mostly transactional.
As always, this has been the World According to Chris. Please hit the like button or leave a reply below.