Another possible entry for proposed 3rd edition of Thinking from A to Z.
Least Worst Option: A choice that may not be attractive, but is the best of those available. Representative democracy has famously been labelled the least worst option amongst forms of political organisation (Winston Churchill declared that democracy is the worst system of government - 'apart from all the others'). It has a number of points in its favour, such as that it allows political leaders to be deposed by a majority of voters; but it also has features that count against it, such as that those voting may be swayed by factor which are not relevant to a candidate’s ability to be a good political leader. But there is no better way available of organising society.
There are man situations in which we have to make a choice between alternatives, but none stands out as a good choice. In such situations, assuming that we really do have to make the choice, it is rational to choose the best of the alternatives, while recognising that the choice we make falls short of being ideal. As a parent, we may have a choice of only three schools our children can attend locally, none of which fits with our ideal of what a school should be like. We must make a choice, then and take the least worst option, while recognising that our choice does not vindicated the local council for giving us such a poor choice of schools, or endorse the particular school as excellent (it may be mediocre or worse).
The novel Sophie’s Choice by William Styron centres on a terrible choice a mother must make between saving one of her two children, a boy and a girl, or letting them both be killed by Nazis. She takes what she sees in that instant to be the least worst option, that of saving her son who, she tells herself, will have a better chance of survival. But this agonizing choice inevitably haunts her.
Recognising that what we have done in a situation is choose the least worst option rather than endorsed a good option is important. We should be clear about the limitations of alternatives available to us, and the degree to which our decisions are governed by pragmatic considerations in most real life situations.