Shifting the Overton Window – Part 2

Published by Patricia Lustig on

The Overton Window is named after Joseph P. Overton of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. According to Overton, the window contains the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office in the current climate of public opinion. It can shift and expand as societal norms and values change.

In an article for the Long Finance Pamphleteers blog we noted that until recently, the UK had been widely respected as one of the “good guys” with a stable and honourable democratic system.  But our public discourse has become distorted.  To shift the Overton Window – the public discourse – away from divisiveness, intolerance and inequality, we need to remember who we really are; the values we endorsed in the preamble to the UN Charter which are described in the Pamphleteers blog. Many people want a country that is less divided and less filled with hate. The narrative of demonization of others – foreigners, immigrants, EU – goes against fundamental British values and what we have held dear: tolerance, fairness, long standing democracy and the rule of law.

The greatest void in Europe is a discussion about what sort of society we all want.  This would need to include how to tackle the challenges of aging and falling populations; of regulating both new information – and biotechnology; of the climate crisis and the new, emerging multi-polar world.

In research for our new book Behind the Headlines, it has become clear to us how significantly different millennials are.  Millennials are those born between 1980 and 2000.  By 2040 they will dominate the workforce and politics and these values could help inform a vision for the future. 

In our next blog we will explore the ways in which millennials are different and how this gives us hope that they might well be able to move the Overton Window back from divisiveness, intolerance and inequality and towards tolerance, fairness, long standing democracy and the rule of law.


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