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  • In 1990, Belgium passed a law allowing abortion. For the bill to become law, the king of Belgium had to sign it, normally this was just a formality as the king had no real power. The staunchly Catholic King Baudouin was faced with a difficult choice: by signing the bill he would put his name on something he was morally opposed to, however not signing the bill would most likely create a constitutional crisis and bring down the monarchy. The solution was for the cabinet to declare him 'unfit to govern' for 24 hours, during which time they promulgated the law and after which Baudouin resumed his ceremonial role.
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  • In the 1920s, an English submarine captain in China once faced the Hobson's Choice of either allowing a hijacked river steamer to escape, or allowing the pirates to kill their hostages. He took the third option of sinking the ship. He fired a shot into the waterline, causing the ship to settle slowly, so that the passengers and crew could easily abandon ship, and in the confusion most of the pirates were killed. Since they had blended with the passengers, it was uncertain how many pirates had escaped and how many innocents had died, but the overall solution worked, and the captain was exonerated.
  • In 1936, just months into his reign as King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of the Dominions of the British Empire, Edward VIII proposed to American Wallis Simpson. The British Parliament and the governments of most of the colonies greatly opposed the marriage due to Simpson being twice-divorced, and gave Edward an ultimatum: either he cancelled the wedding, or they would resign en masse, prompting a constitutional crisis. Edward duly took the third option of abdicating the throne, eliminating the political issues that the marriage wold have caused, and then marrying Simpson. While Edward had been gaining a reputation for his disregard of protocol, Parliament had never even considered that he might abdicate.
  • In the US, once a bill is passed by the state legislature, the state governor has the option of either signing the bill and having it become law, or vetoing the bill. A third option exists in most states: Simply do neither, in which case the bill becomes law by default after a set number of days. This may effectively be the same as signing the bill but is sometimes done when the Governor is in an awkward position, such as opposing the bill but knowing it has much popular support and could harm them politically if it was vetoed, that the veto is guaranteed to be overturned, or if they don't necessarily oppose the bill but consider it unnecessary or a waste of time. It can also happen if parts of the bill are quite necessary and a veto could have negative effects (for example a budget and funding allotment bill) but the Governor still opposes some portions of it.
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    • This also exists on the federal level, but with a twist. If a bill is passed by Congress and the President neither signs nor vetoes it within ten days (not counting Sundays), it becomes law automatically...but only if Congress is still in session. If Congress has adjourned during those ten days, the bill is vetoed (a so-called "pocket veto"), and Congress must pass the same bill (or a new one) during their next session. Congress figured a way around this by designating a "messenger" or "secretary" to receive veto messages while Congress is adjourned.
    • In state legislatures and the US Congress, members can vote either Aye (Yes) or Nay (No) on bills. A third option also exists, voting "Present". This has the effect of abstaining but does it make clear the member was present for the vote (hence the name) and was not simply absent, thus allowing the abstention to be public record.
      • The United Kingdom Parliament has an interesting variation: the yes and no votes are tallied at different times. A member of Parliament wishing to abstain has the option of simply not voting either time, but this will not record the abstention and will not appear any different than if they were absent. However there is actually nothing preventing them from voting twice, and effectively cancelling their vote out, thus abstaining in the public record.
      • In the state of Minnesota, constitutional amendments passed by the legislature must be approved by the voters. This is the law in most states, but in Minnesota (and Illinois) there is a twist: they must be approved by the majority of voters voting in that election, and not simply voting on that ballot item. This means that abstaining and not voting on that part has the same effect as voting "No". In 2012 a few people advised doing this on the state's vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in Minnesota, as a protest against the legitimacy of the amendment and means of not even dignifying it with a vote. (The amendment was flat-out defeated with a majority actually voting "No".)
  • Something similar happened in the English debates leading up to the Canadian parliamentary election in 2006. While future Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper tore then-PM Paul Martin's corrupt Liberal government to shreds, the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Jack Layton, took most of his time to remind Canadians that they "always have a third option," and to vote NDP. It backfired spectacularly, making Layton look like a kid in the back of a classroom, jumping up and down and yelling "pick me!" The media backlash was so large, and the third-option catchphrase repeated so often to tarnish Layton's reputation, that it's the closest thing to Memetic Mutation in the political journalism field.
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    • Jack Layton tried it again in the 2011 election and ... became leader of the Official Opposition, moving the NDP from third- to second-largest party in Parliament (they and the Conservatives mostly gained at the Liberals' expense). And then he died.
      • His successor as leader, Tom Mulcair, tried something similar in the 2015 election, portraying his party (which had the second most seats and were riding high in the polls) as the alternative to an endless cycle of Conservative and Liberal governments. It failed miserably, as the party lost more than half its seats (including many veteran MPs), putting them back in third place.
      • The third option in the 2015 election ended up being the Liberals, due to them being the third party and the perceived inexperience of their leader, Justin Trudeau (son of Pierre, one of the most iconic political figures in Canada to this day). They started out low but went up to first place by the end (mostly by out-flanking the normally socialist NDP on the left), and finished with a majority government.
    • In the run-up to the 2010 UK General Elections, Nick Clegg repeatedly stressing his own existence went down very well, creating a positive Memetic Mutation called 'Cleggmania'. Despite leading in the polls at one point and gaining votes, the Liberal Democrats actually lost seats in the election, but they did manage to enter a coalition government, which was more likely to be what they were hoping for at the start. Their popularity has since declined due to the fact that many of their supporters have felt betrayed by their decision to join a Conservative-led government, especially after breaking a promise not to raise tuition fees on universities. Then the Conservatives got a (very small) outright majority at the 2015 election, enabling them to implement everything the Liberal Democrats had been able to shoot down in committee and things went From Bad to Worse,note  leaving the Liberal Democrats somewhat Vindicated by History.
    • Irish commentators have usually labelled the Irish Political System as a two-and-a-half-party system. The Labour Party is the 'half' party; much like the Liberal Democrats in Britain, they are much bigger than smaller parties in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) but smaller than the other two dominant parties (Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil). Historically, when Fianna Fáil lost elections, Labour would form a coalition with Fine Gael (and once in the early 90's they were in coalition with FF). This seemed to have changed in 2011 where Labour gained more seats than Fianna Fáil to become the second largest party, but then their perceived collusion with FG and betrayal of their base led to their being almost completely wiped out in 2016. Fianna Fáil are now supporting Fine Gael (who are in coalition with a few independents) via a "Confidence and Supply" agreement, after neither party won a convincing majority.
    • Costa Rica's two-party system was broken when PLN centre-left party and PUSC centre-right party face the new and popular PAC (center). PAC won the presidential election in 2014.
  • In the United States presidential election of 1912, the Republican nominee was incumbent William Howard Taft and the Democratic nominee was Woodrow Wilson. But Taft had a falling out with his mentor and predecessor as president, Theodore Roosevelt, leading TR to give voters a third option: himself. He created his own Progressive Party, soon to be better known as the Bull Moose Party. Taft became the only incumbent president and the only Republican Party presidential nominee ever to finish in third place, carrying just two states and winning eight electoral votes (Utah and Vermont, with four each). However, TR's six states and 88 electoral votes still left him in a distant second to Wilson.
  • Post-1912, third parties in the United States have never really had very much success in federal elections, compared to other western countries. There have, however, been a few notable exceptions. Here are some of those from presidential elections:
    • Senator Robert M. La Follette of the Progressive Party (not the same as Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party) won his home state of Wisconsin in 1924. He was an economic progressive as opposed to Republican President Calvin Coolidge and Democratic challenger John W. Davis.
    • Governor and future Senator Strom Thurmond carried four Deep South states (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, and got a faithless elector's vote in Tennessee) for the States' Rights Democratic "Dixiecrat" Partynote  in 1948.
    • A faithless elector from Alabama, W.F. Turner, cast his vote for obscure Alabama judge Walter Burgwyn Jones for president and better-known Georgia senator Herman Talmadge for vice president in 1956, despite the fact that neither man was running. In explaining himself, Turner felt that Democratic nominees Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver (who won Alabama) were far too lenient on civil rights issues: "I have fulfilled my obligations to the people of Alabama. I'm talking about the white people." (Jones was definitely a white supremacist, while Talmadge would go on to join a boycott of the 1964 Democratic Convention due to President Lyndon Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act that same year.)
    • In a case like the above, while Senator Harry F. Byrd didn't run for president in 1960, he took the electoral votes of Mississippi and half of Alabama (those electors being nominal Democrats who would not promise to vote for John F. Kennedy) and an electoral vote in Oklahoma from Republican elector Henry D. Irwin, who broke his pledge to Richard Nixon.
    • Governor and famous segregationist George Wallace ran as the American Independent Party's candidate (not referring to true political independence, but rather a far-right third party that focussed in Wallace's case on upholding racial segregation) in 1968 and carried five Deep South states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, plus faithless elector Lloyd Bailey's vote in North Carolina). He is notable for being the last third-party candidate to carry any state.
    • Libertarian Party candidate John Hospers won a single electoral vote from Roger MacBride of Virginia, who broke his pledge to President Nixon, in 1972. This is impressive since Hospers was on the ballot in only two states (Colorado and Washington) and got the fewest votes of any party-backed candidate during that election (to put it in perspective, beyond the two major parties, a far-right conspiracy theorist, the Communist Party candidate, a pediatrician, three different socialist candidates, and even the Prohibition Party candidate got more votes than he did).
    • Ronald Reagan won a single electoral vote from Washington state elector Mike Padden in 1976. Although he had lost the Republican nomination that year, his rivalry in the primaries with nominee Gerald Ford kickstarted his rise in popularity, allowing him to win the nomination (and ultimately the presidency) in 1980.
    • Congressman John B. Anderson ran as an independent in 1980 after losing the Republican nomination to Ronald Reagan. Although he didn't carry any states, he won a surprising 6.6% of the popular vote (ironically, he likely won over more Democrats, many of whom were disappointed with Jimmy Carter, than he did Republicans).
    • Although the 1988 presidential election was a pretty solid victory for Republican George H. W. Bush with no real surprises, West Virginia Democratic elector Margarette Leach reversed the offices to which she named her party's nominees: Lloyd Bentsen for President and Michael Dukakis for Vice President. It is said she did so as a protest vote against the Electoral College. Many Democrats at the time, though, felt that Bentsen was a stronger candidate than Dukakis and perhaps deserved some sort of recognition (like the above-mentioned vote for Reagan in the 1976 election). Or maybe she was just that impressed with his "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" line in the VP debate with Dan Quayle.
    • Billionaire Ross Perot ran two very famous (and ultimately ill-fated) presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996. Like Anderson he didn't carry any states, but he did win a whopping 19% of the popular vote in 1992 (by far the highest percentage of any third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt's 27% eighty years earlier), as well as an impressive-but-less-whopping 8.8% in 1996, though this was largely due to his dropping out of the race, then re-entering, then dropping out before finally re-entering completely.
    • A fairly controversial presidential candidacy was the 2000 run of political activist Ralph Nader as the Green Party candidate. Although he got less than 3% of the vote, he was perceived as "taking away" votes from the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, splitting the ticket in key states and allowing Republican nominee George W. Bush to be elected. Such a claim would be laughable in any other year, but the 2000 election was so close that some analysts back then actually took it seriously as a deciding factor (well, as one of the many and often strange factors, anyway).
      • Gore won the popular vote but lost the 2000 election anyway — the first time such had happened since Benjamin Harrison beat Grover Cleveland in 1888 — after the Electoral College went to George W. Bush via a Supreme Court verdict over the disputed count in Florida. Gore later joked about it at the 2004 Democratic Convention, ruing how the election itself had not been as binary as it should have:
        Al Gore: You know the old saying: you win some, you lose some. And then there's that little-known third category...
      • Gore-pledged Washington, D.C. elector Barbara Lett-Simmons, meanwhile, didn't vote for anybody for president, the first abstaining elector since 1864. She was protesting D.C. not having a voting representative in Congress.
    • In 2004, Minnesota voted for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, but a faithless elector voted for his running mate, John Edwards, for both president (as "John Ewards") and vice president.
    • Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski capitalized on this idea in 2010. After a narrow loss in her primary race, Murkowski, who was popular in her home state, launched a campaign urging voters to write her in rather than voting for either of the two candidates officially printed on the ballot. Murkowski defeated Miller, the official Republican candidate and runner-up, by just over four percentage points, becoming only the second person in history to win a Senate race on a write-in campaign.
    • The 2016 election saw the most third-party votes since 1996, with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and independent candidate Evan McMullin gaining at least 5% of the vote in at least two states each, but as notable were the number of faithless electors, the first election with more than one since 1808. Two Texas Republican electors voted for someone other than Republican nominee Donald Trump, who carried the state (Christopher Suprun voted for 2016 GOP presidential hopeful John Kasich, while Bill Greene voted for Republican-turned-Libertarian perennial candidate Ron Paul). Four Washington state Democratic electors voted for someone other than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (Peter Chiafalo, Levi Guerra, and Esther John voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who had endorsed every Democratic presidential nominee since 2008, and Robert Satiacum, Jr. voted for Sioux Nation tribe member Faith Spotted Eagle, who at the time was involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests). Hawaii Democratic elector David Mulinix voted for 2016 Democratic primary runner-up Bernie Sanders over Clinton. Democratic electors in Colorado (Michael Baca), Maine (David Bright), and Minnesota (Muhammad Abdurrahman) tried to vote for Kasich and Sanders, but due to those states' laws against faithless electors Bright was made to vote for Clinton and the other two were replaced with people who did. Clinton for her part, like Gore sixteen years earlier, won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College.
  • In the days right before the Roman Civil War, Pompey and the Senate attempted to foist two lose-lose options onto Julius Caesar: return to Rome without his veteran legions in Gaul and be crucified in court, or refuse to return, which would lead to him being declared an enemy of the state. With Caesar's legions spread across Gaul and the war season rapidly drawing to a close, by the time he could gather all his forces he would have found an overwhelming army prepared against him. Caesar, proving once again that he deserved his reputation for military genius, decided to Take a Third Option. He realized that the one legion he had on hand was more than the zero legions his enemies had mustered so far, and marched one legion into Italy proper. They conquered Rome without a fight and Caesar held the initiative for a good part of the war after that.
  • In general, politicians in a two-party system find success in appealing to the moderates as having found a "Third Way." Bill Clinton was known for such positions. Clinton's political team referred to the strategy as "triangulation" — using both conservatives in Congress and his own party's left wing as foils for his own policies. This led to him being branded him as a "waffler" early in his term by opponents, and as a "sell-out" after he left office by liberals. Among many on the left, "triangulation" came to be a term of derision, with the suggestion that rather than using the left and right as "foils" it actually reflected a lack of conviction and a mere pandering to whatever polled well at the moment. However, it also earned him widespread public popularity then and now.
    • This inspired the concept of "Compassionate Conservatism" used by his successor, George W. Bush. It has been argued that both politicos were echoing the first President Bush, who attempted to distance himself from his wildly popular predecessor by calling for a "kinder, gentler nation" than that of Ronald Reagan.
    • In his book What's the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Thomas Frank argued (incorrectly) that this triangulation strategy would doom the Democratic party, since it would render the Democrats indistinguishable from the Republicans except on sociocultural issues, guaranteeing that they would lose the white working-class vote and be even more vulnerable to accusations of being anti-American and/or anti-Christian than they were before.
    • The political opponents of Tony Blair, one of the politicians most famous and successful for relying on such rhetoric, remarked at the time that he was not the first politician to claim he had found a Third Way between free markets and state control... the slogan "Third Way" was initially used by Benito Mussolini.
    • A variation on this tactic is to create a combination of a False Dichotomy and Morton's Fork between two straw positions, using the Golden Mean Fallacy to illustrate that your own politics are both more moderate and better policies.
  • The Berlin Airlift. After the Soviets blockaded the western-controlled West Berlin, an enclave in East Germany, the only apparent options for supplying the city were to try and force their way past the Soviet blockade, thus giving the USSR grounds to retaliate and potentially start World War III, or to let the city be starved into submission. Instead the Western Allies choose to fly in the supplies required by the city's two-million-plus population. The largest airlift in history followed and it placed the shoe completely on the other foot; the airlift could only be stopped if the Soviets started downing planes.
    • Not that they didn't try as the planes flew in for a landing...
  • Fort Sumter. The Union could either send a ship to resupply it, and give the Confederacy an excuse saying they were being attacked to start a war while blaming the Union, or let them all starve. The Union instead choose to warn everyone faaaar in advance that a ship would be sent without weapons solely to resupply the fort, giving the 'blame' for starting the war to the South.
  • In the early days of the Space Race, the scientists involved were divided into two camps as to how to get to the Moon: the first, NASA's "Direct Ascent" concept, would build an unbelievably huge rocket capable of launching from the ground, flying to the Moon, landing, lifting off from the Moon, and returning to Earth. Dr. von Braun proposed an alternative Earth Orbit Rendezvous, wherein multiple launches would construct and fuel a vehicle with a similar flight profile in Earth orbit. In 1961, a working group was assembled to hash out which option NASA would commit to. Instead, the conference resulted in a third option: Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. By using a small vehicle to ferry astronauts to the lunar surface and back, they avoided the massive cost of landing and lifting the fuel and equipment for the homeward journey.
    • This option was not initially considered because no spacecraft rendezvous had ever been accomplished before; it was considered risky even in Earth orbit, where astronauts could de-orbit in an emergency. The risk of the lander docking with the command module after the surface mission was considered great, but the engineering challenges in building the LOR launch vehicle were relatively minor in comparison. Practicing orbital rendezvous was the whole point of the Gemini program.
  • The Non-Aligned Movement. Countries like India, Malaysia, Egypt, Tito's Yugoslavia, Indonesia and others chose to join neither the USSR nor USA in the Cold War, making their own alliance instead. This is exactly what "Third World countries" originally meant.
  • Some gamers complain about draconian DRM, since they can only either buy the game, which they would have to deal with said DRM (some of which has been construed as malicious), or not buy the game which may lead to their non-support for the DRM being misinterpreted as non-support for the game. Instead they Take a Third Option of buying the game and then getting a crack or some other method of playing the game without the DRM (see Spore).
    • Some claim that this "proves" to the publisher that people will buy the game with DRM, and that they "need" stronger DRM to hold off piracy; some claim that it proves to the publisher that people won't stand for crap DRM.
    • There's also a fourth option of just pirating outright, but again that runs the risk of "proving" either that the game needs stronger DRM to prevent that option or that the game is a failure for lack of sales, killing the series, which isn't exactly what fans want. Plus it's against the law in most places to take and play the game without paying for it.
      • Running a pirated version also runs the risk of having another form of potentially nastier unwanted software on the computer: malware. Those pirates aren't internet crusaders on your side against the evils of DRM. They're just that, pirates. However, it's usually not the game itself made into malware, but the "keygen" program or crack that is.
      • It is worth noting that the behavior of some DRM is almost identical to the behavior of malware (e.g. StarForce) and could be used by a less than honest employee of whatever company produced the DRM to serve up worse forms of malware. Some DRM platforms are just outright security hazards, like earlier versions of Ubisoft's UPlay.
    • Or take a fifth option and stick to playing open-source games (see also below), though that's no good if you want to play the big commercial titles.
    • The unfortunate thing is that lack of sales, due to disinterest or piracy, is a Morton's Fork for gamers and fans of the product. Some companies will interpret weak sales as people just pirating the game, either killing the series or justifying the "need" for draconian DRM. It doesn't help that it's solely up to the publisher what "lack of sales" means.
    • Incidentally, the industry has taken a third option as well; the rise of Steam as a distribution platform (and many more that followed the model), coupled with its annual massive sales, has actually managed to stifle much of the piracy; why run the risk of putting malware on your computer and jump through loops to crack a game when you can just buy it on sale for five dollars or less?
      • GOG Dot Com presents an alternative to Steam by allowing gamers to buy games legally but without DRM.
  • The False Dichotomy fallacy is all about this — a problem is presented as having two solutions, when there might be more. The Golden Mean Fallacy is the inverse...wherein the "third option" is not always the best option and can actually be the worst.
  • Weekday Vegetarianism. From the talk: "I realised that what I was being pitched was a binary solution [...] so I wondered... might there be a third solution?"
  • When Anthrocon was debating whether or not a move from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh would affect whether or not people would attend, the majority of those polled took a third option: they didn't care which city it was in because they lived so far away that the move wouldn't really affect travel.note 
  • Psychologist Paul Watzlawick gives us a nice example with the Austrian Franzl Wokurka. He did this the first time when he saw a flowerbed with a sign forbidding to rip out flowers; conflicted between obeying a law (he didn't like) and crossing it (which might have led to consequences) he suddenly had an epiphany, thinking "those flowers are pretty nice" and deciding he wouldn't rip them off because he wanted it so. From then on, he lived his life following this philosophy; thus, he became neither a theist nor an atheist, but an agnosticist. Later, Those Wacky Nazis flooded Austria with posters stating "National Socialism or Bolshevist Chaos?", he would comment with "Erdäpfel oder Kartoffeln?" (spuds or potatoes?).
  • A man tells a TV reporter a story about his grandfather and how he refused to be mistreated despite being black (or, in the day's parlance, a Negro) in the U.S. Deep South back in the 1950s. His grandfather wanted to build a house and purchased the lumber. The (white) owner of the lumberyard later informs him that he's not going to give him the lumber, so the customer wants his money back. Lumberyard owner points out (correctly) that he can get away with not paying him, because even if he sued him, no jury (which would be all-white, in the southern U.S.) would find for a Negro. So, he'll keep the money and the lumber. The man then gets angry about it and says that he's taking a third option: either the lumberyard owner refund him his money, give him the lumber he paid for, or he'd kill him. The lumber yard owner then decided that it would be a good idea not to cheat the man and gave him the lumber he paid for.
  • Robert Bloch said that, on graduating from high school, he was faced with a choice between working and starving to death. He decided to become a writer, and do both.
  • During the late 1980s and 90s, computer users were stuck with the choice of the Mac (easy to use, but more expensive with proprietary ports and an unusual software architecture) or IBM-PC (less proprietary, more manufacturers, annoyingly primitive hardware until the introduction of the PCI bus). Some denied the battle and just bought an Amiga (the first multimedia system; way ahead of its time, but owned by a company with poor management). Unix workstations offered scientists and engineers a similar combination of graphics and power.
    • In the late 2000s (decade), a similar event happened following the release of Windows Vista. Widely abhorred, many chose to either stick with Windows XP or switch over to Macs. Some didn't like either and went with Linux OSs (particularly Ubuntu).
    • A situation that is now being echoed with the release of Windows 8 and its radical change in user interface. Sentiment towards Windows 8 appears more divided than ever. Worse for Microsoft, there are now plenty of third options available, including standing pat (as PC computing power needs have plateaued lately), switching to Linux distributions that are becoming better at handling diverse workloads and handling Windows applications, or abandoning the PC for a portable device (phone or tablet), an option now (thanks to improved computing power on the portable front) much more viable to the consuming public.
    • In the UK and a few other countries, the Acorn Archimedes was another potential option that was arguably ahead of its time.
  • A man is in the hospital, due to not feeling well, with his girlfriend. His girlfriend gets a phone call. It's the man's wife, who managed to find his girlfriend's number. The girlfriend asks why the woman on her phone is claiming to be the man's wife. The man responds by losing all color, and collapsing due to cardiac arrest.
  • Two Libyan pilots were recently given the choice between bombing civilian protesters or facing execution if they refused. Instead, they flew to Malta and applied for asylum.
  • One of the ideas from Aristotle's philosophy is that every virtue can be represented as the sensible option when presented with two extremes. For example, 'Wittyness' is presented as the virtue of saying just the right amount in a conversation, between the extremes of saying too little and coming across as shy, or saying too much and being thought of as a bore.
  • Immanuel Kant, the last Enlightenment philosopher, advocated the "categorical imperative" which, boiled down, meant that an act could be considered "moral" only if it would be reasonable for everyone to act the same way. French philosopher Benjamin Constant pointed out that under this system telling the truth was an imperative (since a society of habitual liars could not function), and a moral person would be forced to tell an inquiring murderer the location of his target. Kant responded in his next essay, pointing out that although it's still wrong to lie to the murderer, that doesn't mean you have to give him the information he wants, either. The system still has critics, but Kant definitely advocated the Third Option to seemingly unwinnable situations.
  • More moderate/liberal Christian organizations and some churches often market themselves as such, as a third option for those who are not atheist or non-religious but also aren't very conservative or fundamentalist. Emergent churches often do this too as a third option for those unhappy and bored with traditional worship styles between that and not attending. Sometimes it's as simple as performing a Hand Wave: almost all Christian churches oppose abortion, but they will try to woo pro-choice advocates by acting as if anti-abortionism isn't as important to them as other causes that pro-choice people would find more palatable (the Catholic Church having used this strategy semi-successfully).
  • The celebrated US Supreme Court case of Marbury v Madison. Short version: the Supreme Court was asked to order the Jefferson administration to deliver a letter naming Marbury as a Justice of the Peace, a letter that had been signed under the previous Adams administration with the intention of causing trouble for Jefferson's incoming government. If the Court refused to back Marbury, it'd seem like it was caving in to political pressure; if they did order delivery of the letter and the Jefferson adminstration responded 'make me', it'd expose the fact that the Court had no ability to compel enforcement of its decisions. Instead, the Chief Justice took a third option, stating that Marbury had a right to his commission but that the Court couldn't constitutionally order the administration around in this way:note  placating both sides, and not incidentally establishing the principle that the Court gets to decide what's constitutional and what's not. Only later in life would Jefferson, who opposed the idea that the Court should have exclusive say on this matter, realize how badly he'd been hornswoggled.
  • The "Two-State Solution" to the Arab–Israeli Conflict is intended to be this, with both Israel and the Palestinians having their own independent states.
    • One key problems with the two-state solution, and a key reason that it hasn't progressed in real life, is the continuing debate on the status of Jerusalem (containing some of the holiest sites in Judaism and Islam, stacked ontop of each other). Simply put, both sides want control of it and neither side wants the other to control it.
      • Another key problem is that a not insignificant segment of the Israeli right, believes in the concept of greater Israel in which the West Bank settlements would be merged into Israel proper without having to give up any current Israeli land (in Israel proper) as compensation to the Palestinians or believes in the expelling all or most of the Palestinians from all of the West Bank and making the West Bank officially a part of Israel. There is also the very devisive issues of Palistinian refugees “right of return” and whether they would have full rights to there own air space and water, or be forced to allow Israel to provide air protection and water (under the justification that Israel’s security needs justify it).
    • An actual, but lesser known, third option is the "three-state solution" (this involves giving Jordan control of the West Bank and Egypt on Gaza).
    • A second third option is the "one-state solution" which involves rolling present-day Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza into one nation. Like the two- and three-state solutions, few people are holding their breath.
    • Similarly, some have started referring to that area as neither Israel or Palestine, but simply "Gaza" as to avoid starting an argument with either side.
  • The English constitutional set-up of 1689 was this. England (which had been plagued by political instability) had the problem of trying to balance monarchism (which they believed could lead to tyranny) with Parliamentary rule (a form of republicanism which they had tried and believed lead to instability). The solution was a "third way": retaining the monarchy but curtailing the king's powers whilst ensuring that, legally, all power was still derived from the crown even though it was largely (and later entirely) executed by Parliament. Not only did this system work but they believed they had found the perfect system of government. When the American colonies decided to try the republican option again many English observers believed it was doomed to failure as it would "only work with small city states".
  • In regarding to union issues (especially those in California relating to the entertainment industry), the general rule of thumb is that union members are strictly limited to union work and vice versa for non-union members. Then there is something called the "financial core" option (or "fi-core" for short). It lets the said workers work in both union and non-union environments. In regards to working in a union shop and obtaining the benefits of working in the union, the financial core worker must pay a small union fee. They cannot represent or participate in union activities; but at the same time, the financial core member is not restricted the union bylaws (particularly SAG's "Global Rule Number One"), can work in non-union environments, and continue working if the unions go on a strike. Oh yeah, and mentioning this to SAG and AFTRA is a very bad idea.
  • Light bulbs: Do you install compact fluorescent bulbsnote  or regular incandescent?note  Third option: Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.note 
  • The origin behind the Eduard "Mr. Trololo" Khil's famous Trololo song. The song he "sings" was actually a famous Russian folk song named “I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home”, which had been banned in the USSR due to its lyrics... so when faced with the choice of dropping it from his performances or not, Eduard Khil still sang it, but changed the lyrics to unreadable gibberish. And he got away with it.
  • The 2012 US Supreme Court case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (aka "the Obamacare case") was decided this way, as the court's four liberal judges voted to uphold the law while three conservative judges and one moderate judge voted to strike it down, leaving conservative Chief Justice John Roberts as the tiebreaker. Roberts could either strike down all of the Obamacare law (thus ending health care coverage for millions of people with pre-existing conditions) or violate his conservative philosophy and uphold the law by ruling that the mandate in it is constitutional under the Commerce Clause, setting (from a conservative standpoint) a very unwanted precedent.note  Roberts ended up ruling that the mandate was not justifiable under the Commerce Clause, but the penalties for violating it could be considered constitutional as a tax, thus upholding the law without setting a far-reaching precedent.
    • There is yet another option: It is standard practice for a bill to be edited after the two houses of Congress pass it — usually, these edits are not controversial, and do not change the meaning of either version. The purpose is just to ensure that there is only one version presented for passage. Some opponents claim that the edits to the ADA go beyond this practice and actually change the meaning of one or both of the two versions passed by the two houses. If the law's opponents had felt that this claim was compelling enough and adopted it as one of their arguments for striking down the law, the Court could have sent it back to Congress for re-passage.
  • Molly Ivins, writing in spring 1993, about articles focusing on the first 100 days of Bill Clinton's first presidential term:
    "The hundred-day thumbsuckers, as think pieces are known in our trade, fall roughly into four categories. 1) Clinton's full of energy and ideas and, despite some setbacks, has had a lot of success. 2) Clinton is a disaster. 3) In the long view of history, taking all this from the judicious, balanced point of view for which I the writer am so noted, Clinton's glass is half-empty. And 4) One hundred days is a ridiculous standard on which to judge any president. I especially like number four. When in doubt, wee-wee on the premise. That's my motto too."
  • Biographies of Saint Alphonsus Maria of Liguori mention him taking one of these. As a former artist who later took the path of priesthood, Alphonsus a big fan of musical performances, but in the times he lived in these were often accompanied by acting, which wasn't seen as very "proper" back then. So Alphonsus quietly sat back in a dark corner of the theater... and then took off his glasses. Since he was Blind Without Them, Alphonsus could listen perfectly to the music without catching sight of anything "improper" happening on stage.
  • Various political theories, such as social democracy and the Third Way, are attempts to combine socialism with capitalism. Most world economies are in fact "mixed economies," combining elements of both the free market and central planning. In the case of social democracy, the ideology of fusing capitalism and socialism came after World War II.note  The original intention was to transition in an orderly way from capitalism to a socialist economy, in contrast to the communists who wanted a violent revolution. On the other hand, proponents of fascism also saw their ideology as a fusion of socialism and capitalism, as a third way between corrupt, broken capitalism and violent, chaotic Communism.
    • National Bolshevism. A fusion of Communism and Fascism.
    • Many far-right and neo-Nazi groups and parties call themselves "Third Position", although some camps like the Strasserists (Nazis who held actual leftist economic views until their purging) and National Bolsheviks will claim to be the true Third Position since they combine far-right social views with far left economic ones.
  • In research people actively search for this to avert it before a study, because the discovery of a third variable screws up the whole study (it's great science, but not when you have a deadline you have to meet). It's called the confounding variable. For an exaggerated example: the number of drownings correlates with ice cream sales every single year. The higher ice cream sales are, the more people who suffer drowning deaths. You could argue until you are blue in the face about which causes which, but the confounding variable is the simple fact that both occur during summer.
    • This post which has became a famous meme in the thedailywtf.com community. True, False, or FileNotFound.
  • In 1978, George A. Romero was preparing to release Dawn of the Dead and had it submitted to the MPAA for rating. He was told that the violence of the film merited an "X" rating. The problem was that by that time, the untrademarked "X" rating had been co-opted by the porn industry (the original intent was for a self-applicable rating for films that were of adult content, such as Midnight Cowboy, but not porn), making an "X"-rated film a financial disaster as most (legitimate) theaters had stopped allowing "X"-rated movies. He did not want to cut his movie down to an "R" rating, and so took a third option of placing the following disclaimer on all posters and ads:
    "There is no explicit sex in this picture. However there are scenes of violence which may be considered shocking. No one under 17 will be admitted."
  • The London Underground buildings of the English architect Charles Holden. Neither classicist nor modernist, they have an elegant sensitivity to them, and yet they fit into neither camp. He himself said of his architecture that he was "not enough of a traditionalist to please the traditionalists and not enough of a modernist to please the modernists".
  • As detailed in this Cracked article (#2), when faced with the option of either dying of heat exhaustion or dying of heat exhaustion without any pants on, Emile Leray decided to build a motorcycle out of broken-down car parts and ride the fuck out of there like a boss.
  • The Wii, and to a smaller extent the DS, is Nintendo's third option. Following the relative failure of the Nintendo GameCube,note  Nintendo was faced with either continuing the graphics arms race with Sony and Microsoft and continuing to struggle against its "kiddy" image, or reorganizing as a third-party developer and continuing to struggle against its "kiddy" image. Nintendo decided to ignore all that, embrace its family friendly nature, and try to redefine a video game market that had been "stable" for decades. And it worked because it became the definitive party game: when Sony and Microsoft started concentrating on online play in earnest, the Wii focused instead on excellent in-person multiplayer gaming, and won over parents, kids, the elderly...target groups that Sony and Microsoft did not consider.
    • Considering the respective sales figures, the Wii essentially was the first option for its console generation. Add in PC game sales, and the Xbox and PlayStation were both the 3rd options.
  • While flying a 737 towards New Orleans, you lose both engines over the Louisiana swamps. Choices are: try ditching onto a canal or land somewhere on the muddy banks, hoping the 737 would withstand the impact and sudden stop in the soft ground. Or — take a third option and land on top of a levee, half the width of a standard runway and way shorter, but at least even. Bonus points: the captain had only one eye, which leads people whose knowledge has not progressed beyond what they were told at school to erroneously assume that he couldn't properly estimate the distance in the pouring rain; in fact binocular vision, as well as being only one of many mechanisms for extracting depth information from the visual field, is only effective at short range (a few metres) and is entirely irrelevant in terms of the distances involved in landing a plane.
  • A king learns that his son has committed some misdeed. In his anger, he proclaims that a big stone shall be thrown on his son — he's talking about a stone big enough to kill. When he regains his calm, he notes the dilemma: If he cancels the punishment, he broke his word — but if he pulls it through, his son may die or be crippled at least. One (truly) wise man shows him the third option: Break up the big stone into fine gravel before throwing it.
  • This is one part of the appeal behind free/open-source software and its equivalents in other media: faced with the option of buying and using expensive, restrictive proprietary product and breaking the law by piracy or illegally decompiling and hacking the code, the third option being to write software that's specifically designed to be distributed and hacked at will. Of course the idea has its roots well before proprietary, closed-source software, but the principle remains.
  • There are plenty of third options to run Linux while still keeping Windows around. The classic method is dual booting, installing Windows and Linux and separate hard drive partitions. Another way is running a distro live off of a CD or USB key. Yet another way is running it in a virtual machine. If you just want the command line tools to run inside of Windows, you can just install something like Cygwin. One of the reasons Linux vaulted ahead of other free Unix implementations has been attributed to the ease with which users could use their existing software while trying out Linux.
  • It has been suggested that the Khazar Kingdom chose to adopt the Jewish religion as a third option between the Christian faith of Russia and the Islamic faith of the Turks.
  • At the proclamation of Prussian King Wilhelm I as the first Emperor of a united Germany in Versailles in 1871, the Prussian leadership was split as to how to proclaim Wilhelm. Bismarck and the King's other advisors wanted to subtly declare him the "Deutscher Kaiser" ("German Emperor") — a phrasing which would downplay his actual power in the Reich and make it easier for the other member states to accept his title. Wilhelm himself, however, stubbornly wanted the proclamation to style him pompously as "Kaiser von Deutschland" ("Emperor of Germany"), which would imply that he would have exactly those kinds of powers, and thereby piss off the Southern German States (Bavaria in particular) into possibly not joining the new Reich out of protest. The Third Option? He was eventually proclaimed "Kaiser Wilhelm" — no more, no less. Thus, no side was pissed off too much and the finer details were left to be thoroughly discussed at a later point.
  • Put up with the high prices, generally poor customer service, and limited DVRs of cable, or the high prices, slower Internet speeds, and weather-related clarity issues or outages of satellite? More and more people are choosing to do away with either and instead watch TV through online services like Hulu Plus or Netflix, or simply stick to over-the-air broadcast networks like ABC that an antenna can pick up.
  • At the end of World War II, after the Japanese surrender was signed but before it was formally broadcast, there was an attempted coup by the War Ministry staff and part of the Imperial Guard in order to prevent the surrender. The plotters had been counting on the then-War Minister, General Shizuichi Tanaka, to support them. But Tanaka —faced with the options of either joining in a coup against the Emperor or being party to a dishonorable surrender —chose instead to convince them to stop said coup... and commit suicide a few days later.
  • On Wikipedia, nearly anything can be nominated for deletion: articles, user pages, images, policy/guideline pages and anything else in the "Wikipedia" namespace (their equivalent of Administrivia), etc. These discussions ideally go one of two ways: "keep" or "delete". However, there can also be other outcomes: "Withdrawn" (the nominator changes their mind and no one else in the discussion objects), "Merge" (the content is combined with another related article), "No consensus" (the discussion has been open for a while without a clear consensus forming), "Speedy keep" (the nomination is obvious trolling, or otherwise does not present a valid argument for deletion), or "Speedy delete" (the content being nominated meets one or more criteria that allow it to be deleted instantly without any need for discussion; most commonly used for obvious vandalism or copyright violations).
  • A third gender option is gaining worldwide traction. Those who don't feel particularly male OR female (regardless of whether or not they were born with ambiguous genitalia) are using other words to describe themselves. "Non-Binary" is the umbrella term used for all these identities—or at least it is in the USA. Some other countries already have legitimized Third Options:
    • Nepal put a third gender option on their census in 2011.
    • For a long time, India has used the term "hijra" to describe those who identify as neither male nor female. Now, Pakistan recognizes them, too.
    • Germany was the first European country to do it, specifically to stop intersex children into the binary at birth.
    • New Zealand has a third option for passports now.
    • In Australia, the issue went all the way to the Australian High Court, and they ruled in favor of the third-option-takers. Gender is now much more of a legal non-issue (although not a COMPLETE non-issue quite yet).
    • The US government was petitioned via We The People to legally recognize nonbinary genders in the US. It got over 100,000 signatures, but there has been no response to it yet.
    • There is, of course, the old joke that there are in fact FOUR genders: "Male," "Female," "Don't know," and "Don't care."
    • Biology: Hermaphroditism or Intersex.
  • When some atheists are confronted with the Lewis's trilemma or "Liar, Lunatic or Lord" dilemma that is supposed to prove Jesus Christ is divine, they respond with something like "You're forgetting one more option, "Legend."
  • When Gene Hackman was cast as Lex Luthor for Superman: The Movie, he didn't want to fully shave himself bald. (He was already unhappy upon being tricked into shaving his moustache.) Instead, he came up with the Running Gag of Luthor wearing a different wig in every scene... and wearing a bald wig when he's arrested.
  • During the 1960 US presidential election, both Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were jokingly asked whether California (Nixon's home state) or Massachusetts (Kennedy's home state) made the better women. Kennedy's reply was, "Well, since my wife is from New York, I would say that in fact New York makes the better women."
  • This has been a major reason why the Consistent life ethic has gained some popularity in the United States. To wit, the consistent life ethic serves as an alternative to both the Republicans (who are generally anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia but also in favor of capital punishment and some military action) and the Democrats (who are generally pro-choice and pro-euthanasia but also anti-war and anti-death penalty). This philosophy was pioneered by Catholic cardinal Joseph Bernardin in order to reconcile these two political ideologies, arguing that Catholics had a moral obligation to protect all life.
  • This is the major point (and appeal) of non-chain restaurants and stores, as they are not connected to major chains. Why go to Wal-Mart or Target when you can go to the local retail store?
  • An incident that once occurred on an American message board: A man known to be a member of his state's legislature was a regular poster. He was very respected on the board for his insight on both politics and his work as a professor at a state university. A bill came before the legislature that would legalize gay marriage in the state. It was overwhelmingly supported by the board's posters who encouraged him to vote for it and by most of his academic colleagues. Voting against it would've driven a rift between him and people he was close to. However, the man was a Republican who represented a very conservative district, and voting for it could've ruined his political career. It just so happens that he ended up being absent from the legislature the day that bill was voted on.
  • The United Kingdom lacks the same strong free speech protections The United States has in its First Amendment, meaning it's very easy for courts to place a gag order on unproven allegations considered libel,note  and allows people with lots of money or power and access to high powered attorneys the ability to silence criticism or unflattering allegations, thus giving those wishing to make such claims the option of either potentially facing lawsuits and prolonged legal battles, or having to bury any allegations against a person with power. There is however a loophole: Parliament can never be censored. If a Member of Parliament is sympathetic, they can make the statement on the parliamentary floor, which allows it to become public record and lets the media cover it free of censorship (as the story is now "MP so and so has claimed that..." instead of "anonymous sources claim that..."), with the maximum punishment that can be inflicted on the MP being no more than a five-day suspension and corresponding loss of salary.
    • Speaking of the UK, in the 1990 Conservative Party leadership election, the first round was between Margaret Thatcher (who was popular with much of the party but was down in the polls and had made several missteps) and Michael Heseltine (who had his own base of support but was ideologically crosswise with Thatcher on several points). Voting for Thatcher would obviously have one interpretation whereas any vote against her (either for Heseltine or by abstaining or spoiling one's ballot) would have the opposite. Either would potentially alienate about half of of the party. So...John Major 'had a toothache' the day of the vote. Then, when the first round was inconclusive, the party also took a third option, and he was promptly nominated and elected Prime Minister.
  • Israel is one of the few countries in the world to lack civil marriages, the state only recognizes religious marriagesnote  which can create a very sticky situation for Jews wishing to marry non-Jews, Israel's religious authorities do not hold marriages between Jews and non-Jews as valid, and the Christian and Muslim leaders will not always recognize a mixed marriage either depending on the circumstances or sect. This leaves the option of either having a marriage not recognized by the state, or having the Jew convert to another religion for the purpose of marriage, which they may not wish to do and may be seen as a betrayal to their community. The third option: Hold the wedding in the nearby island of Cyprus, because Israel DOES recognize marriages performed internationally, even if the marriage would not be legal in Israel.
  • In 1976, after the NBA/ABA merger was completed, the ABA teams left out — the Kentucky Colonels and the Spirits of St. Louis — were offered $3 million buyouts by the NBA. Kentucky accepted. St. Louis owners Dan and Ozzie Silna, rather than accept or sue for a better deal, negotiated what was thought of as fool's gold: They would accept a deal that would annually pay them one-seventh of the television revenue earned by the four ABA teams that joined the NBA. At the time, the NBA was a second-tier sports league that didn't even have the NHL's regional drawing power. The Silnas bet on the NBA exploding in the coming years, especially with the then-nascent cable market developing. The deal ultimately ended up netting them over $300 million over the life of the deal. It would have brought them even more, adjusting for online and international revenue, had the NBA not negotiated a $500 million buyout in 2013. The Silnas ended up earning far more profit than they ever would have, had they managed to keep their team alive.
  • Gisella Perl was a Jewish gynecologist, forced to work as a doctor in Auschwitz concentration camp during the holocaust. She was ordered to report every pregnant woman to the physician Dr. Josef Mengele, who would then use the women for cruel experiments (e.g. vivisections) before killing them. Refusing to do this would have gotten her killed and replaced. So, she took the third option and performed abortions on the women, saving the lives of hundreds.
  • A psychological experiment involved a boy trapped in a hallway with only two exits — one at either end. The first exit was guarded by a vicious, snarling dog; the second exit, by a mean-looking man wielding a baseball bat. The boy waffles back and forth for a while: when he cautiously approaches one exit, the guard there looks scarier and the opposite danger seems not as bad, driving him back to the center. In several instances, the boy eventually breaks through the walls or does something else to avert a beating or a mauling.
  • As explained in this article, during the 1965 Southern 500 NASCAR race, the Ford cars have a problem in their new radiators used for the race, in which they had a problem with track debris getting stuck in them, causing them to overheat. Thus, the Ford drivers was given the option to race normally but risk the car blowing up (and maybe get set ablaze), or deliberately slow down and not race with full capability in an attempt to cool down the engine enough so they can finish. Ned Jarrett did a third option: Shut down the engine on the turns and restart it in the straights. It worked. It worked so well, Jarrett ended up winning by a gap of fourteen laps.
  • The cat people and dog people dichotomy is really more about personality type than what pets people keep, but those aren't the only pets out there. So, when you ask someone which one they are, they might answer, "I'm a bird person", "I'm a fish person", "I'm a rabbit person", or whatever. And, of course, you can be a mix of cat and dog person, or not a pet person at all.
  • For people who are opposed to factory farming but don't completely object to animal products outright, one option is only eating meat that was humanely killed or opting for free-range/cage-free eggs, as well as various forms of semivegetarianism, including "weekday vegetarianism" mentioned above. Vegans still object to all of these on the grounds that they believe any use of animals by humans is immoral.
  • Early in Australia's life as a nation, there was much debate over whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the capital city. The solution? The city of Canberra, between Melbourne and Sydney, specifically made to be the nation's capital.
  • The ultimate third option. The results when a real coin is tossed: Head, tail, edge of coin.
  • Some countries are proposing to ban gasoline and diesel cars around 2025-2040. However, some members of the public see a third option - alternative fuels such as CNG, ethanol and LPG, so they can still have big V8 engines, only more economical and eco-friendly.
  • The famous crash of US Airways Flight 1549, also known as the "Miracle On the Hudson", was a case of this. After losing his engines, he had to choose whether to head for La Guardia airport or Teterboro, as they were in opposite directions. After a moment's thought, he determined that both options were too risky, and decided to do something else entirely.
    Captain: We're gonna be in the Hudson.
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