The Overton Window – Why Think Tanks are Necessary

There’s a new book out called the Overton Window. The book is a novel, but its namesake is a very real concept developed by a friend of mine, Joe Overton. Joe’s concept, which he called the “window of political possibility,” helps explain how laws can be passed this year to implement ideas that were considered politically impossible a few years ago. It also helps explain, in part, why think tanks like ours are so important.

Overton’s idea starts with the concept that most politicians will only vote for ideas if they think they can do so and still be re-elected. So, the way to make an innovative idea more likely to pass is to make it so popular with the general public that politicians feel safe voting for it.

The policy ideas that fit that description are in the Overton Window. If the public endorses a new idea, the window moves, making the idea politically possible. The role of think tanks like the Mississippi Center for Public Policy is to move that window by helping the public understand why less government means more freedom. To help us do that, go to mspolicy.org.