Consideration has always seemed to me a mountain in the law schools that is a mole hill in the practice. What is undeniable is what our Casebook states: "Whatever may be the moral obligations that arise from the making of a promise, in the Anglo-American legal system the making of a promise is insufficient by itself to result in the formation of a contract. An additional requirement is necessary—the presence of ‘consideration.'’’Casebook at 71.
In addition, what a retired Columbia Law School Professor wrote in 1958 could be written without any loss in accuracy today -- the requirement of consideration is something real and isn't going away: "The doctrine of consideration still rules us, and not from its grave. Vigorous attacks upon it began in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and continued until well toward the middle of the twentieth century. . . .If there has been any tendency of American courts to abandon, repudiate, or reform consideration, the present writer was unable to discover it. [T]he doctrine of consideration seems likely to be with us for a long time to come, and we shall therefore need to make the best of it." Edwin W. Patterson, An Apology for Consdieration, 58 Colum. L. Rev. 929 1958).
As our Casebook also mentions, supplemented by half a page of citations, is that consideration as a "feature of Anglo-American law has not been without its vigorous critics." Casebook at 71. Moreover, consideration is not a requirement of an enforceable contract outside of Anglo-American legal systems.
In other words, if we were forming the legal system from scratch, we might do away with consideration as a necessary element of a legally enforceable promise. But we're not.
So, what should we focus on?
-- Identifying when consideration is present, and when it isn't.
-- Recognizing that an imbalance in consideration is not grounds for finding a contract does not exist. An imbalance, however, may well be an indication that there's something else -- other than anything regarding consideration -- wrong with the alleged contract.
-- Recognizing the few real-world situations in which an absence of consideration genuinely is a problem.
-- Recognizing where promises or other reliance-inducing actions are grounds for legal recovery and the ways in which such legal remedies are different than, and perhaps substantially inferior to, contractual remedies.