All of us want and may see pragmatic or “practical” solutions, issue by issue. On the surface that may sound more effective than a principled approach, if you even understand what “principled approach” is.

Example that I hope helps clarify the way I see these two concepts in relation to each other:

Comparing seat belt mandates
to vaccine mandates

The pragmatist would point out differences like “With a seatbelt mandate, there is no risk of injury/death from forced seatbelt-wearing where with the vaccine there is.”

The principled approach is to see the common denominator(s): “They are both coercion and should be up to the individual.”

Without an underlying principle to tie solutions together, a system will become a never-ending stream of problems-and-bandaids, often contradicting itself and quickly becoming unfair, inefficient, and… impractical, because it doesn’t work. Something going wrong? Patch it! See the irony?

These kind of systems tend to promote “surfacey” quick fix solutions, often leaving out the following four dimensions: 

(a) Time;

(b) Cost;

(c) Relationships to other solutions;

(d) Effects on all individuals; and

(e) Looking “up” at the big picture and “down” at the underlying causes.

When a system is made up of parts, it is important to look at the relationships between the parts when deciding whether a part is “practical”. That is where a “map” comes in handy to check each part against. That “map” is principles.