The Overton Window

A while back, I was intrigued by Chris Dillow’s mention of the “Overton window” in his post “Fiscal Policy and the Overton Window.”

Wikipedia defines the Overton window as follows:

The Overton window is a political theory that describes as a narrow “window” the range of ideas that the public will find acceptable, and that states that the political viability of an idea is defined primarily by this rather than by politicians’ individual preferences.[1]It is named for its originator, Joseph P. Overton,[2] a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.[3] At any given moment, the “window” includes a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office.

The set of ideas politicians feel they can talk about in turn limits the range of ideas that are considered relevant policies for typical political debates. As a result, a great deal of political discussion is about a very narrow range of policies. One of the most important ways that the blogosphere can contribute to the political debate is by talking about attractive policies that politicians are not talking about. That makes those policies more familia–and so safer for politicians to talk about–thereby expanding the Overton window.

I have proposed a many policies that are currently not a big part of the political discussion in our country. It is my hope that additional discussion of these ideas in the blogosphere can expand the Overton window to encompass them as genuine political possibilities. Here are a few, with links:

  1. Electronic Money as a Way to Eliminate the Zero Lower Bound on Monetary Policy
  2. A Public Contribution System as an Alternative to Tax Increases
  3. Federal Lines of Credit as an Alternative to Tax Rebates
  4. A US Sovereign Wealth Fund to Give the Fed Running Room
  5. A Constitutional Amendment to Limit Government Spending to Less than Half of GDP
  6. A Dramatic Increase in Legal Immigration
  7. Year-Round Schooling

For proposals that are more nearly within the bounds of current political debate, see my post “Within the Overton Window,”

Note: This post, plus “Within the Overton Window” constituted a list of "save-the-world posts.“ My most current list of "save-the-world posts” is “Making a Difference: Save-the-World Posts as of December 3, 2013." 

An earlier list of "save-the-world” posts can be found in

My Platform, as of September 24, 2012,

and still earlier in  

Miles’s Best 7 “Save the World Posts,” as of July 7, 2012.