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Carrot and stick (also "carrot or stick") is an idiom that refers to a policy of offering a combination of rewards and punishment to induce behavior. Some claim that this usage of phrase is erroneous, and that in fact comes from the figure of a carrot on a stick. In this case, the driver would tie a carrot on a string to a long stick and dangle it in front of the donkey, just out of its reach. As the donkey moved forward to get the carrot, it pulled the cart and the driver so that the carrot would always remain out of reach.

The earliest citation of this expression recorded by the Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary is to The Economist magazine in the December 11, 1948, issue.

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