A Chinese expression goes:
(Néng piàn jiù piàn.)
(If you can trick/cheat, then trick/cheat.)
The idea is that there is no reason to be honest just for the sake of being honest. That is, if you can benefit from a dishonest action and know that you definitely won’t suffer any financial, reputational, or other damage that outweighs the benefit, then you should act dishonestly. To put it simply, if you can cheat and get away with it, then cheat.
My question is this: How is this idea commonly/idiomatically expressed in German?
I did a lot of research by making various Google search requests and reading lists of German proverbs, but was unable to find anything close enough:
The closest thing I could find is:
Wer es allen recht machen will muss früh aufstehen.
(He who wants to do right things to everyone has to wake up early.)
This sounds to me like:
If you want to be fair and just to everyone, you will have to live a very hard life.
and is apparently a sort of justification of cheating, but I am unsure as to what the standard interpretation is. Even if it is the same as mine, this German phrase is rather weak and indirect as compared to the Chinese expression, whose idea is to cheat whenever possible.
I also found an aphorism by Otto von Bismarck:
Prinzipien haben heißt, mit einer Stange quer im Mund einen Waldlauf machen.
(Having principles means to run through the forest holding a pole with your teeth.)
Although this phrase apparently can be used as a justification of being unscrupulous, it seems to be rather about impracticality of being too rigid in the most general sense.
Other languages have pretty direct equivalents:
Never give a sucker an even break.
This phrase means that one should take advantage of those who are not well informed if given the chance, and is fully equivalent to the Chinese expression, as the logic is fully preserved: If you can trick, then trick → If he can be tricked, then trick him → If he is a sucker, then trick him → Never give a sucker an even break. The emphasis by the word never is very much in the spirit of the Chinese expression.
Russian sayings are pretty direct, too (link):
не обманешь – не продашь
(If you don’t lie, you won’t sell)
не наебёшь – не проживешь
(If you don’t f*ck people over, you won’t survive.)