The core principle for effective government is to protect life and then preserve and uphold individual freedom to the maximum extent consistent with law and order. Thomas Jefferson stated this well in his 1801 Inaugural Address:
A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.
He also stated it well in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed [emphasis added].
Freedom is not simply a good idea, but stems from the nature of people, who are created in the image of God and thus ought to be free. Freedom is a right, not a privilege granted by the government.
As a result, the primary way to evaluate any policy is to first ask: Does this policy increase or decrease individual freedom? Policies that tend to decrease freedom will not just tend to get bad results. Rather, they are also contrary to the fundamental purpose of government.
And it is the same with candidates. A good question to ask about the candidates as we go to the polls is: Is this candidate generally for policies that increase individual freedom or policies that increase government control?
In other words, we need to think not only about specific issues, but also about the overall philosophies and principles that govern those who are running for office — and thus the positions they will take on not only current but also upcoming issues. The candidates who will lead best are those whose own political philosophy is in line with the purpose of government itself: to preserve and uphold freedom to the greatest possible extent.