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The Overton Window: What It Is, And How It Is Used

By ELLIOT YOUNG as part the Founders Keepers Series The Overton Window is the object of a theory that describes the general range or Window of public reactions to policy and ideas in public discourse, in a spectrum of all possible sides of a policy or issue. It was first theorized by Josef Overton, who also described a method for moving or manipulating the Window. This method allows inclusion of previously excluded ideas and exclusion of previously included ideas. It uses radicals, promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous extreme, making it look like sunshine and lollipops. Also, think-tanks talking about, researching, and making a case for these ideas can eventually make it safe for politicians to support the ideas. The theory resolves that promoting ideas on the fringe - and meant to stay there - will lead the public towards the real target idea, whether further left or right. The essence of the Overton Window is that only a single part of the entire spectrum of policies is possible at any one time. Despite the valiant efforts of radicals and think-tanks alike, the policies that they promote only succeed if mainstream politicians and their constituents come to agree with them. These policies and ideas must fit within the current Overton Window. If the Window has been moved, so have the criteria for the politically acceptable. Politicians are limited by ideas. In order for their political careers to succeed, the legislation that they lobby for must fit within the current Window. Though politicians have complete control over what they lobby for, it takes a truly remarkable politician to move the Overton Window. We have seen this in both Reagan and Obama moving the Window right and far left, respectively. Which direction is better is for each person to decide for him/herself, though

everyone knows my views on the subject.


If a think-tanks principles and studies of sound policy or public opinion reveal that a particular idea lies outside the Overton Window, the only option is to manipulate the window. Because commonly held principles, presumptions, and the public mood frame the realm of the politically possible, and create the window, a shift in the opinions of the politicians and the people will move the window. If one moves the window, the ideas that were once impractical or radical can become the ideas that frame the next massively popular political legacy and vice versa. Today, radicals and think-tanks on both sides are the main proponents of the radical theories that shift the Overton Window. To see the window in action, we must look at the term of one of our former presidents: Little than a decade after it was enacted, the statist and nanny-state style government of the Carter era led to over 10% inflation, an increased rate of poverty, and an already over-budget and ineffective Medicare. Public and politicians alike were tired of dealing with the quasi-dictator Presidents like Wilson, Teddy (Roosevelt), LBJ, and FDR. With Carter, they finally had enough. This public rancor slowly shifted the Window to the right, eventually leading to the election one of our best presidents, Ronald Reagan. If we look at what is currently happening in Greece, we see a nanny state formed through the steady implementation of the very policies that our government is trying to shove down our throats. The Greek government felt that redistribution of wealth was the fiscally responsible thing to do. It promised free money to too many people, finally resorting to IOUs. The country has since resorted to massive budget cuts and will not fulfill its promises to the people. This government welching has caused many bloody and destructive riots throughout Greece. The policies have also plunged the economy into the doldrums with massive debt, causing hyperinflation. This example alone should serve as a warning to the people of the United States about what becomes of socialist policies, but there are others: Although Socialism has proven one of the most persistent single political philosophies of the last 150 years; it must be truly heartbreaking for hardliners to learn that it doesnt work. All the reasons why can be summed up in the fact that socialism works contrary to human nature. People have the innate desire to serve their own personal interests.

Socialism is fallible because of the disincentive to work and act responsibly. If there is a nanny to take care of some or all of ones needs, there is no reason to worry about work ethic, productivity, financial stability, etc. A downturn in productivity results in a shrinking economy, causing everyone to suffer. An economy in the doldrums only creates a larger downturn in productivity, making things even worse. A vicious cycle is born. Social programs create more demand for themselves in a self perpetuating cycle of heinous outcome. Provided with government handouts, people come to rely on them, and they learn that they can never spend enough because, the more they do, the greater the need to do so. If that were not enough, the high taxes associated with socialism detrimentally affect entrepreneurship and innovation. Entrepreneurship and innovation are driven by the potential for material reward, and if taken away, there will be less of it. This brings us back to the fact that everyone wants some reward for hard work. This is human nature - it cannot be changed, and the liberal fantasy that it can is detrimental. At the time of Obamas election, socialism started to sound like a good idea (to some) because of think-tanks and radicals efforts to shift the Overton Window to the left. Until now, Washington politicians have been exempt from the legislation they vote on; thus, they cannot know how the legislation affects an ordinary citizen. Finally, after months of ineffective policy, the majority of Americans have come to their senses and started to take an active role enacting of legislation. They have started to elect representatives with experience in business and leadership: representatives who will act responsibly and ethically in the interest of the people. Once again, America is heading for a time of great prosperity. If we all have faith in this, it will become a self fulfilling prophecy. We must work diligently to bring back the values that our Founding Fathers built upon. (The Founders Keepers will be back in the next issue, with: Progressivism and its Roots
The Founders Keepers is an organization devoted to bringing back the values and ideals upon which our country was founded. Current Members Include: Elliot Young: President; Noah Gardner: Faith, Hope, and Charity. If you would like to join our team, please get in touch with me.