The question

Should I vote for what is best for me or what is best for others?

is by itself very opinion-based.

First, it asks for the best without providing any metric to evaluate the best. Then it specifically asks for counsels: should. Like the policy in The Workplace, no one can really tell you what you should do. At least not on SE.

Now the OP is aware of it, and specifically asks for non-opinion based answers. Instead they want answers to base themselves on published research (game theory, political science, etc.).

The problem is, I don't think any published research can really answer that question, for exactly the problem I mentioned before. At least not in general terms. Financially, it might be best to choose one option. But for humanity, it might be better to choose the other option.

Humanity and our societies developped themselves as a result of both collaborative efforts and competition. This, for example, is illustrated by published research on the number of naturally left-handed people. So depending on the details both answers have merits.

Furthermore, I doubt any of the choice would provide 100% one way, while the other would go 100% the other way. Meaning the gap is probably not that wide. And one single vote won't affect the whole result.

At the end, I don't think that question is answerable as it is.

Due to the bounty that the OP placed on their question, I can't vote to close it. This is the reason for the current discussion. Do you think that question can be answered in the terms providing by the OP? Or should it either be edited or closed?


3 Answers 3


This is a known problem with many questions on many SE sites.

The main problem with opinionated question is due to several possible answers may be equally valid, hence preventing from choosing the selected answer.

This is a kind of deliberate policy of StackExchange network. There are many, many generally good questions that require opinionated answers, and someone may learn from them.
But they are still bad for StackExchange.

Of the "red flags" that hint a SE-bad question are keywords "do you think that…" and "better".

But there is a good workaround, allowing to avoid the keywords and making your seemingly-bad question into a good one. Here's it:

Ask about how the things work, not about what you should do.

Instead of asking, "how should I vote?", ask specifically what factors impact and then decide which of these are most important to you.


  • On Lingustics.SE, questions like "what does this inscription mean?" are offtopic because they do not help further users. However, questions about methodology of language identification are just fine;
  • On Workspace.SE, questions like "should I go work in a big company or a small startup?" are bad, there will be hundred answers contradicting each other. However, if you ask about the factors impacting your choice, that's on-topic. And the reader chooses what is important, and what can be sacrificed.

StackExchange has a limitation about the nature of questions.
Questions inviting opinionated answers are bad because they invite for many contradicting but equally valid answers.
However, if you ask how things work (and make your decisions by yourself), this becomes a good question simply because "how things work?" has a single answer, but the decisions based on these facts would be individual to everyone.

  • I disagree with your suggestion. If your question has a fundamental problem, then superficial changes in wording merely disguise that problem. They do not solve it. Sep 8, 2016 at 18:36
  • This would be a better answer if it rewrote this particular question to be on-topic. As is, this is really just a suggestion as to how we might think about proposing a standard in the future.
    – Brythan
    Sep 8, 2016 at 18:43
  • 1
    " several possible answers may be equally valid" is NOT by any means a conclusive reason to ban any question. Suggested supplementary reading, stronlgy related: "Good subjective, Bad subjective", by a senior SE employee
    – user4012
    Sep 8, 2016 at 19:24
  • @SamIam, Sorry, it might be due to my bad wording. By no means do I suggest to "fabricate" seemingly-good questions from bad ones. On the opposite, I suggest to look at the objective part of any problem. And, if there is an objective basis, it can be a good topic for a question. Just the way it is described in „Good Subjective, Bad Subjective“ linked in comment above. Sep 8, 2016 at 22:21

That is an ethics question, and it can essentially be reduced to "Should I support my own interests or the interests of others."

I can't imagine that this is a new dilemma, so I've asked the philosophy.se mods if they want that question on their SE.

If the philosophy mods don't want it, then my analysis is that this question is asking for a list of theories about a particular topic, so I'd be inclined to close it as too broad.

  • 1
    Sorry, I disagree. It's more of a game theory issue and utility function, and thus has more to do with politics and a bit with economics, than with philosophy/ethics. The issue HAS been studied in game theory, as well as by libertarian political theorists, at the very least. I'm pretty sure there's a Marxist perspective analysis but @SamuelRussel doesn't seem to be around to clarify.
    – user4012
    Sep 8, 2016 at 19:22
  • @Rathony - VTC: General Reference. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory#Political_science
    – user4012
    Sep 8, 2016 at 20:30

I agree with you that the question is off-topic and it can never be answered definitively.

The question itself is no different than asking "Which side should I take when my mother and father are engaged in argument because my mother is a Catholic and my father is a Protestant?". I flagged the question as "primarily opinion-based" and I was disappointed by the fact that it was declined by a moderator.

Politics SE should have a firmer policy on this kind of unanswerable question as the answer to the question seems to be "Vote your conscience."

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .