By John Hughes | September 17th, 2018
The Overton window is named Jospeh P. Overton, who was interested in the range of acceptable ideas informing political debate, and how this relates to setting public policy. He considered a range from more freedom to less freedom to sidestep the left / right labels.
More Freedom <–––––> Less Freedom
Unthinkable .... Radical .... Acceptable .... ‘Sensible’ .... Acceptable .... Radical .... Unthinkable
The Overton window includes the range of possibilities that people will accept on any given issue. This is still used in political think-tanks when considering public policy on Health, Education and other areas. Politicians are generally very good at knowing what people will accept and what they will not. Those that are not can suffer ‘Overton’s Revenge’ if they stray into or beyond the unthinkable edges: they alienate and lose their following.
When making a case for a position anywhere within the Overton Window, we can make appeals based on:
As a Radical Strategy, The Overton Window offers a mechanism for extending the debate. This might be necessary if the conversation is getting repetitive around the ‘sensible’ centre of gravity. Groupthink is usually easy to recognise but not always easy to shift. Sometimes conversations get stuck because those with ‘difficult views’ are not invited into the decision making, and at that point the Overton Window will close. Cynics and those with the courage to speak out can help us keep the windows open and create a path to better decision making.
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