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Goal Next: Moving the Overton Window

A lot's been said about Ron Paul's announcement. I won't speculate here about Dr. Paul's intentions, what's going to happen at the convention, or whether Ron Paul will endorse Mitt Romney.

However, I would like to talk about what the movement's goals going forward should be.

Before going there, it's useful to ask whether the point of the last four years has been to elect Ron Paul qua Ron Paul, or to, say, "restore constitutional government to the United states"? I think it's safe to say that the goal has never been President Ron Paul per se, but rather advancing a set of policies to increase liberty.

If that's the case, then how do we do that?

Introducing the Overton Window

The Overton Window is a poli-sci concept which is pertinent to this situation.

Joseph P. Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center, posited that there's a narrow range or "window" in which public policy debate occurs (among the power-wielding establishment). Wiki says:

At any given moment, the “window” includes a range of policies considered to be politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too “extreme” or outside the mainstream to gain or keep public office. Overton arranged the spectrum on a vertical axis of “more free” and “less free” in regard to government intervention. When the window moves or expands, ideas can accordingly become more or less politically acceptable. The degrees of acceptance of public ideas can be described roughly as:

  • Unthinkable
  • Radical
  • Acceptable
  • Sensible
  • Popular
  • Policy
  • The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public so that the window either “moves” or expands to encompass them. Opponents of current policies, or similar ones currently within the window, likewise seek to convince people that these should be considered unacceptable.

    Other formulations of the process created after Overton's death add the concept of moving the window, such as deliberately promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous "outer fringe" ideas, with the intention of making the current fringe ideas acceptable by comparison.

    The Overton Window in practice

    Let's take a few public policy areas and see how Overton's Window works.

    Gay Marriage

    It was only a short while ago when gay marriage was seen as unthinkable in American society. Even friends of the gay community might not have viewed gay marriage as a policy goal.

    However, a small group of committed activists moved the idea of gay marriage in stages from unthinkable to acceptable to now popular. (And it's also policy in quite a few states.)


    The same sort of process can be seen in regards to torture. At one point, no one would ever have supported torture as a policy. After the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo revelations, however, neo-conservatives had two possible routes: disavow torture or embrace it further. They chose the latter. They decided to defend the indefensible, and picked up a lot of supporters along the way. Whether TV shows like 24 helped propagandize for torture or they were merely following an American public that had already made up its mind is a matter for debate. But given President Obama's support of the Bush-era tactics, and GOP contenders' similar promises, torture can be said to have moved from unthinkable to policy.

    Similar moves are underway or complete in the following areas: socialized medicine, medical marijuana, legalized marijuana, homosexuals in the military, PETA/veganism, smoking bans, and auditing of the Federal Reserve.

    What this means for the movement

    What this means for the movement is that there's no reason for despair that we're not going to have a libertarian in the White House come January.

    Review the last paragraph from Wiki above:

    Other formulations of the process created after Overton's death add the concept of moving the window, such as deliberately promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous "outer fringe" ideas, with the intention of making the current fringe ideas acceptable by comparison.

    In this way, "End the Fed" acts as a method of making "Audit the Fed" seem downright reasonable by comparison.

    The best way to win is not to win an election, but to win the war of ideas. That's how you rack up huge numbers of co-sponsors for a bill (Audit the Fed) that at one point was derided as crazy.

    It may seem boringly quotidian, but the best thing to do is keep on keeping on.

    • Keep on debating on this and other forums against statist ideas.
    • Keep on telling your neighbors and family about the decline in the standard of living since the US went off the gold standard.
    • Keep electing a few members of Congress who can sponsor a few, choice bills where the movement's energy can be focused.

    Do that, and in a decade, Ron Paul's plan for cutting the budget won't be radical, it'll be policy.


    Most people can't fathom an idea outside their own narrow Overton Windows. That's why people call Ron Paul crazy: He's outside their range of comprehension. That's also why it can help to start off gently when you're doing person-to-person contact.

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    Bump for the Overton Window

    Glenn Beck wrote a book by the same title, in an attempt to wake up the masses:


    I wonder how many of the people here on the Daily Paul are aware of the concept?

    allegory - ˈalɪg(ə)ri/ - noun - 1. a story, poem, or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.

    I was wondering if anybody

    I was wondering if anybody would make reference to the Overton Window. I thought about it, but I figured that (1) most people here on the dailypaul probably already knew about it, and (2) it takes decades to implement effectively, which if you're paying attention then you would realize that we don't have decades to effect change in a positive direction.

    We have another problem when talking about the Overton Window, and that is that there is a movement -artificial as it is- diametrically apposed to our desired policies, which is the Occupy Movement. The way the Overton Window usually works when two forces are diametrically apposed to each other is to start somewhere in the middle and move a little closer to the force which is greater; as an example of why this is very bad for us: We desire zero minimum wage, the Occupy people want $20/hr -the Overton Window would start at $10/hr and only move from that position when one of the messages produces greater force. However, given that minimum wage is nearly $8/hr now, we would need significant force to just to hold the line there -if the Occupy Movement continues to grow- because we would have to move the window from the starting position of $10/hr, back down to $8/hr.

    Also, one could see this -diametrically opposition- in the Media: FOX is considered Fringe right, MSNBC is considered Fringe left and CNN is in the middle. This is the job of the three MSM Cable News Channels; however, since they are all working towards a One World Government the Window always moves to the left, while the entire system maintains the narrative that FOX is so far to the Fringe right that what is espoused on that channel shouldn't even be considered an option.

    Also, 'Suggestion' is used in “ALL” of our “entertainment,” whether it be books, movies, magazines, television shows, and advertisements -where it originated. We are, as a people, inundated with Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and Hypnotic Suggestion tricks to change our minds and feelings on many different topics and subjects; all of which are destroying our society, getting us to accept OWG, programming us to Obey, while stifling opposition to the OWG by making us believe that the Police/ FBI/ CTU or whatever will always find those who go against the grain -so to speak, and certain shows have programmed people to believe that the Police and Prosecutors are always doing the right thing and only arresting and imprisoning the people who really deserve it.

    The few “shows” which went against this grain are few indeed, but also those shows were canceled early on in their cycles. Two shows which I can think of are Jericho and the new version of V; both of which got canceled with less than 2 seasons into the series. Jericho was canceled after the 1st season and then got brought back because of protest, but the studio didn't even make a full second season and they ended it for good. Jericho had 29 total episodes and V had a total of 22 episodes. Both of these show would have -if allowed to continue- introduced and pushed the idea that people should fear and question an all-powerful Government as well as those who desire to cure all of the ills of the world; this could not stand.

    So, trying to move the Overton Window, we have to fight “EVERYTHING,” the NLP and Suggestive programming of the NEWS Media, Entertainment, Education (Indoctrination), and The unseen hand of the Occupy Movement; all while not having the same access to venues which they espouse their self-destructive messages en masse and ad infinitum.

    A few books I would recommend that all Liberty lovers should learn innately are:

    How to Solve It - by George Poyla
    How to Win Friends and Influence People - by Dale Carnegie
    The Art of Persuasion - by Bob Burg
    The Art of War - by Sun Tzu

    For the Mathematically inclined, such topics as:

    Regression Analysis
    Game Theory
    Information Theory
    Graph Theory

    will most certainly be helpful when setting up a strategy -for yourself or others- to spread the message of Liberty the most effective way possible to combat the programming of the NWO.

    Hayek social change theory

    This has some parallels to his theory but more targeted on politics.

    Hayek, as in Friedrich Hayek?

    Hayek, as in Friedrich Hayek? Which book was that? I don't believe that was covered in the Road to Serfdom (if I remember correctly).


    should be spelled y e a r

    egapele's picture

    Interesting. I wonder how much effect popular TV shows

    have on the Overton Window. It almost seems like the entertainment industry is what actually shapes the window.

    Glenn Beck book by the same name

    How does this relate to the Glenn Beck book by the same name - Overton Window?


    I remember when that book came out - never read it. Is it the same kind of thing?

    Are you saying Ron Paul was never really running for president?

    allegory - ˈalɪg(ə)ri/ - noun - 1. a story, poem, or picture which can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.

    egapele's picture

    Wow, see my post above, I didn't even know Glen Beck

    wrote a book about that but I had a feeling that someone, somewhere was using it in the "entertainment" industry to sway public perception of current events. I guess it's up to Ron Paul's supporters to start throwing rocks in Glen Beck's window & replace it with rEVOLutionary glass. :)

    metalhed19's picture

    yah, interesting post.

    yah, interesting post.

    *Wisconsin Constitution* Article I, Section 25 "The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security,defense,hunting,recreation or any other law-abiding purpose"

    Michael Nystrom's picture

    Thank you kind sir

    Bump for discussion.

    He's the man.