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This question already has an answer here:

Is there a term for rejecting a proposal by not actively endorsing/confirming/voting for it? Like a veto, but by abstention, rather than active participation.

Alternatively, a term for "A choice being made for you, because you refused to choose for yourself" could work as well.

An example of a situation where this would apply: When you boot windows after a crash, and you're asked if you want to enter safe-mode, while a timer counts down. When the timer reaches zero, the computer booths in normal mode instead. Waiting for the timer to run out would be functionally the same as making the choice of not entering safe-mode, even though you didn't do anything. I'm looking for a term/word/expression to describe this act of choosing by not choosing.

marked as duplicate by Nathaniel, ab2, Community Feb 3 '16 at 14:25

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  • This question seems to be specifically about defeating a proposal by not approving it, as opposed to the more general idea of producing a different result through inaction than through action, as in the linked question that ab2 cites. – Sven Yargs Feb 3 '16 at 1:43
  • Not sure why abstain, mentioned by the OP isn't fitting for what is described regarding windows safe mode. There is disenfranchise and disendorse I suppose... – stevesliva Feb 3 '16 at 5:00
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Not a single word, but you might consider default option:

an option that is selected automatically unless an alternative is specified (TFD)

  • Thank you! This answer works particularly well with the example of a computer interface. – David Gruwier Larsen Feb 3 '16 at 14:24
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A term that U.S. (and Finnish, and Indian) audiences might be familiar with is pocket veto. Here is a bit of the Wikipedia entry for that term as it applies in U.S. law:

A pocket veto occurs when a bill fails to become law because the president does not sign the bill and cannot return the bill to Congress within a 10-day period because Congress is not in session. Article 1, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution states:

If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a Law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a Law.

The Constitution limits the president's period for decision on whether to sign or return any legislation to ten days (not including Sundays) while the United States Congress is in session. A return veto happens when the president sends a bill, along with his objections, back to the house of Congress from which it originated. Congress can override the veto by a two-thirds vote of both houses, whereupon the bill becomes law. If Congress prevents the bill's return by being adjourned during the 10-day period, and the president does not sign the bill, a "pocket veto" occurs and the bill does not become law. Congress can adjourn and designate an agent to receive veto messages and other communications so that a pocket veto cannot happen, an action Congresses have routinely taken for decades.

Figuratively, a pocket veto might be used to describe any effort by a single person to delay and attempt to defeat a proposal by inaction. Such usage is somewhat rare, but it appears, for example, in David Williams, Mining the Middle Ground: Developing Mid-level Managers for Strategic Change (2000):

Creating a compelling mandate for change, simply put, means mustering support for the effort that lies ahead — support across all levels of the organization, from executive to mid-level to first-level managers and first-line employees, customers, suppliers, and stakeholders. It means creating an understanding of the need for change, a sense of urgency, in anyone that can hold a "pocket veto" power over some aspect of the effort.

And again in Léon de Caluwe & ‎Hans Vermaak, Learning to Change: A Guide for Organization Change Agents (2003):

In section 2.2.2 we examine the basic conflicts between managers and professionals that can be reduced only by separating their domains and redefining their ways of dealing with each other. The "pocket veto" (2.2.3) illustrates how staff evade the manager's power the moment the manager pulls rank an tries to enforce changes. People change their behavior first and foremost because they want to, not because their boss tells them to.

Interestingly, the pocket veto in a business setting—at least as described in these two books—is wielded by individuals who lack the power of the chief executive (who presumably could veto anything he or she didn't like without resorting to passive resistance). So in this respect, it's a very different phenomenon than the pocket veto that a U.S. president or governor might exercise.

  • Thank you for the comprehensive response and the references! – David Gruwier Larsen Feb 3 '16 at 14:23

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