From the Language Police blotter: “dilemma”

A logical situation, not a practical one.

Properly speaking, a “dilemma” is a logical situation, not a practical one.

When Hank Paulson had to decide between betraying his ideology with a bailout and risking the collapse of the financial markets by letting Lehman Brothers go down, that wasn’t a dilemma: that was just a tough choice.

A dilemma is a situation in which one of two propositions must be true, and either one wrecks your argument.

For example:

Either the nasty stuff about Sarah Palin the McCainiacs are leaking to the press is true, or it is false.

If it’s false, McCain chose a bunch of backstabbing liars to run his campaign.

If it’s true, he chose a greedy, ill-tempered, ignorant vulgarian to be the President of the United States in case of his death or disability.

In either case, McCain wasn’t fit to be President.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: