The statement “the lesser of two evils” is a principle adopted in political strategy. It is a defensive idea. When faced with two threats it is reasonable to choose the lesser threat. But what does this really mean without an understanding, even a basic understanding, of evil itself?
St. Augustine asks the question, What is evil without the good? His answer is simply, nothing – an understanding that has shaped much of philosophical and theological through for centuries.
Nothing evil exists in itself – St. Augustine – The Enchiridion
When we are faced with a political choice between what we think are two evils, we are basically saying that by choosing any evil we are making a choice for nothing over something at all. There is no freedom in that choice. It is not even a choice since there is nothing to choose from.
So what do we really mean?
What we mean when we say this is “I am choosing something that does not fit my ideal.” When we look at candidates for office we want someone to represent our best interests and to fit our ideal of what “good” means. If someone does not fit our idea of good, it does not follow that such a person is bad. It simply means that he or she is not quite as good as we would expect or desire.
In short, the phrase itself is about self-interest. The choice between candidates is not a choice of two evils. Rather, it is a choice for or against our desire and ideal image of leadership.
Another way to put it is this: So conditioned by self-interest are we, that choosing what does not meet our self-interest is considered evil.
Doesn’t that view of other people strike you as just a little…evil?