|Sam, you do like living on the edge!|
Kernon, quibble away. I have a different perspective on the meal thing. You don't want someone to pay when you've ordered a more expensive meal. For me, if they do it at the end, I don't think I've cheated them or anything...it's their choice. But here's where I would explain a similar feeling to yours. As someone who earns my money, and likes knowing that I can and do pay for myself, I'm always a little uncomfortable when someone else wants to buy (unless of course, I bought last time). I will let them, because I understand it's an act that embodies self-efficacy for them. That is, they feel good knowing they can buy a friend lunch. And the more expensive the lunch, the more uncomfortable I'd feel. A nice gesture is one thing, but I don't want to be a burden.
I can't tell if this is what you're getting at. If it is, I don't think we're talking about the same thing. That will always be there. It could even be there with the money lending thing. Many people would rather live in a more difficult manner than to borrow money. It's an issue of pride. Personally, I think charging interest and making it a business deal allows them to keep their pride...they're trading value for value. Being generous by not having an interest rate or anything can make them feel that it's a charity case, and they'd rather do it on their own. The point here is that the same issue affects the other scenarios as well.
But the article just focuses on the conflict of interests, and avoiding it. I think it is a different issue.
Marcus, thank you for the excellent questions.
Ross, that must have been a great dream.
Barbara, I merely aimed to point out a common effect (conflict of interests leading to unjust situations, where the good suffer and the bad benefit), and how to avoid it. I won't argue that you should never try to buy someone lunch, or offer ahead of time. Your example is a fair one. But it is hopefully exceptional as well. Charity should be an exception and not a rule in a relationship. It may be that under those circumstances it's worth risking the conflict of interest, and instead having to try to communicate it (as Marcus suggested). The conflict there is probably minor, especially since you could at any point say "Whoa there! I can't afford to buy you lobster!".
So you're exactly right...these aren't hard and fast rules. The point was only to show that there are conflicts, and how to avoid them. You always have to weight he costs and benefits. Your dating example is a fine one. If I took a girl out on a date who was poor, but I wanted to go to a fine restaurant, I would risk the injustice. But I would do so knowing that the conflict exists, and working to try to alleviate it. For instance, I would encourage her to buy what she wanted, instead of eating a small side salad.