What is the Overton Window of Political Possibility?

The simplest answer is that it is a new novel by talk show host Glen Beck. But the Overton window was actually developed by Joe Overton who at one time worked for our friends at the free market think tank the Mackinac Center based in Michigan.

The Overton Window applies directly to think tanks. It describes the “window” of political possibility with free market think tanks constantly fighting to raise that window to help create more freedom. An application of the “window” can be seen here as it relates to school choice.

With options ranging from most free “no government schools” to the least free option, “compulsory indoctrination in government schools” and containing a wide range of options in between, the window itself actually applies to those options that actually have a realistic opportunity of being adopted.

The role of free market think tanks is to raise the window so that freer options are available. Yes, I’d like to see no government schools, but like food stamps which are simply a voucher for food, the state or local government could provide vouchers for those families who cannot afford to pay for education on their own.

The Overton Window concept is important in understanding change in our society because it is rare that radical change is welcome or able to “stick” unless the public is ready and willing to accept the change.