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The Two Principles of Politics

A vast majority of people’s political differences can be explained by the order and degree of emphasis they put on the following principles1:

  • It is important to help those who need it.
  • It is important to stop those who are cheating.

It is (correctly) implied that this is a zero-sum game.  If you write and enforce the rules to stop cheating, you’ll sacrifice people who genuinely need help.  If you focus on helping those who need it, you’ll let someone take advantage of the system.

While implementations of and the degree of compromise between these principles will vary, I’m willing to bet that one of those statements is generally more important to you than the other.

So which is more important to you?  Helping others or punishing wrongdoers?

1 You can further categorize by how people define “help” and “cheating”;  the contrast between Romney’s statements on how much he paid of his taxes is a good example there.

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  1. Good point! I have tried to explain it to people in a similar way, but actually flipped. We cannot be 100% perfect in figuring out who needs help no matter how hard we try. Sometimes we will give people help to those who don't really need it, and sometimes we will not help someone who does need it.

    Which is worse?