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What’s Wrong With ‘Quid Pro Quo’?

When a quarterback throws a costly interception or when a pitcher gives up a big home run, the play-by-play announcer inevitably says the player wishes “he could have that one back.”

If there were a play-by-play announcer for newspaper writing (besides The Wire, I mean), he might say the same thing about this piece by Laura Berman in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Writing an open letter to the new superintendent of the Chicago Police Dept., Berman, a human sexuality expert, brings up the Levitt-Venkatesh working paper on Chicago street prostitution and advises the superintendent to stop his cops from getting freebies from prostitutes:

“This is not only illegal, but also highly immoral,” Berman writes.

And then she writes: “Although this arrangement might be considered ‘tit-for-tat’ by some officers, in my professional opinion, it is rape.”

Tit-for-tat is the game-theory strategy made famous in Robert Axelrod’s The Evolution of Cooperation. It is also a commonly used phrase to describe reciprocal behavior. But of all the words available in the English language to describe this idea, is “tit-for-tat” really the best one when you’re a sexuality expert asking a police superintendent to keep his men away from prostitutes?

So I am guessing that Berman would like to take that one back. At least it makes me feel a little better about “grasps their hands and cocks her ear.”