Malice in Wonderland

Glenn Beck has written a novel called The Overton Window, which I have not read, but is being vilified by the press and liberals, so it must have something meaningful to say. I bring it up here because the effect upon which his story is based is very much in play today. Joseph P Overton (1960-2003), former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, described it as a “window” in the range of public acceptability of ideas in public discourse, along a spectrum of all possible options on a particular issue. In other words, what people will stand for at any given time.

Dr Overton ranked ideas on a scale from Free (no government intervention) to Not Free (total government intervention), and that at any given time, people will find acceptable only a narrow range of those rankings in their public policy. The window naturally slides along this scale, driven by events and perception – sometimes closer to the “Free” end, and sometimes closer to the “Not Free” end. In a vacuum, the American people tend to be center-right – that is, an Overton Window that is somewhat centered on the scale, slightly favoring the “Free” end.

One of the things that drives the window to the left is crisis. People want their government to take control of national response to crises, and are more forgiving of government’s overstepping its traditional limits in solving them. This is precisely what Rahm Imanuel means when he says “never waste a crisis” (read: we can now get away with stuff that nobody would stand for, en absentia a crisis). He is advocating artificially pushing the Overton Window to the left until the issue of interest falls within the Window.

Hence, cap and trade takes a privileged place in this administration’s response to the Gulf Spill, even though it has nothing to do with mitigating the damage (the only thing which government can do at this point). While there might be applicability to the idea after the situation along the Gulf Coast is stabilized, it won’t be as likely to pass judged on its own merits (en absentia of the Gulf crisis atmosphere).

This is a Machiavellian flavor of what I call the Grapefruit Syndrome of government in action. Give Congress the problem “2+2=?”, and they will, after much serious debate (and countless hearings), return, and defend, the answer “Grapefruit”. Politicians don’t solve problems, they manage them. As long as the problem exists, there is raison d’être for politicians’ existence. They also don’t solve problems within the discipline that the problem arose – i.e., they solve all problems with political responses. They add two and two and get grapefruit.

With the Gulf Spill, the misdirection is less an instinctual response than a calculated one. In a White House bereft of answers, misdirection, obfuscation and ideology are all that’s left. We have been dragged to the left since Mr Obama entered office – on the pretext of crisis after crisis – and now we are being told we must “accelerate” weaning ourselves from a carbon dependency. As “nice” as that sounds, their plan involves making the way we live too expensive to continue. The cost of using our existing energy infrastructure is going to become too expensive to operate, while we wait for the undefined Utopia of Green Energy to kick-in. But having Congress micromanaging our energy sector should be a hard sell in the shadow of Big Government failures in housing, stimulus and healthcare.

8 thoughts on “Malice in Wonderland

  1. I read a Huffington Post Blog [GASP!] about Glenn Beck’s new book and of course it was very unflattering. What a surprise! I sometimes check out Beck’s FOX-TV program just to see what he’s up to. To be honest, he’s getting a little to “Twilight-Zoney” for me. His “history lessons” on the Founding Fathers and the Constitution are way WAY too “Right” for me. But I will look at his book. I won’t buy it. I don’t want to spend my money supporting him and funding his cause. I would consider myself a traitor if I did. Ha ha!

    I’ll study this blog and comment on it further soon. I’m sure you can’t wait!

  2. I have no intention of reading the book – I consider Mr Beck to be the Oliver Stone of the right; and, I really don’t have time to read fiction – it’s title was used here only to introduce the Overton Window concept. And yes, I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the Overton Window’s use by this administration.

  3. I did some online research about Joseph Overton and his “Overton Window” theory. He is right in his conclusion that the country when facing a crisis will look to their government to solve the problem and will be much more forgiving of the government intervening and “micro-managing” at that time.

    It’s human nature for people to flee and retreat to “Big Daddy’s” protective shelter when they perceive a danger-threat coming toward them. I think we all agree on that.

    The question is how do you get the people to perceive the pitfalls inherent in this course of action? You [Glenn Beck] can point out that if they follow this course they are losing or voluntarily giving up their freedom. The question is will this fact be sufficient to convince them that it’s worse to give up a portion of their freedom in exchange for “perceived” security? Will it be better for them to refuse to give up any portion of their freedom and to stand tall and bite the bullet? Can you convince them that losing any portion of their freedom is the worst fate that can befall them? If you can convince them that defending their freedom is the only true and just means to a solution to the problem then you’ve won the battle.

    I’d say that more and more people are becoming convinced that a line has been drawn in the sand and they are unwilling to give up an inch of ground in their battle to preserve their freedom. So Glenn Beck and the conservative movement are gaining ground inch by inch–one person at a time–in the crusade to win the hearts and minds of the people. Congratulations.

    The question remains how long can they keep it up and in the end will there be enough true believers to effect those “real” changes in government that they are striving for? Being a cynic and also one who isn’t convinced that this direction is the right one, I’m predicting that this “freedom movement” will peter out shortly after the November election cycle or at the most after the 2012 elections.

    Personally, if the conservatives manage to sustain their movement long enough to reverse the direction that the current government is headed in, then I will be left with only one course of action: I will be the one harping and carping about everything that that conservative government is pursuing and I’ll be the one examining the entrails of every action it takes and painting those actions in the very worst light.

    In other words, the shoe will be on the other foot, and I can live with that. It’s more fun to attack the other side than it is to defend your side. You have shown me that.

    And yes, I think the current government is using the “Overton Window” theory to it’s advantage at this time. But since I and they don’t see that course as action as nefarious or devious, I don’t have a problem with them “Never Wasting a Crisis”. And I don’t think this administration is the first to apply the concept in it’s course of governing…A discussion for another day…

    My thoughts.

  4. I think you conveniently read the general feeling of the American people. They are not seeing this an administration overstepping its perceived mandate as much as being in danger of losing our constitutional uniqueness among nations … our very way of life.

    The alterations being sought by the administration aren’t administration-specific, they are quasi-permanent. The Left has long seen the problem with America as being … well … America. Since Wilson, the Left has sought to “fundamentally change America” away from individual liberty toward a paternalistic government, but only under the aegis of President Obama, have they found a Congressional vote able and willing to ignore public outcry and install it. This is a living example of the dangers of Big Government that the Constitution was written to prevent from forming.

    The American people don’t, by nature, want to “be taken care of”, and this is why the Democrats are desperately seeking entire classes of people to make dependent on government (and therefore, the Party that made it so). The whole open-borders mindset is an attempt to meaningfully change the demographics of the United States in favor of dependency. They’ve already exempted half the voting public from paying income tax, making them indifferent to tax policy. With Pelosi-Reid-Obama in charge, they see a chance to work it from the bottom-up and top-down simultaneously.

    And you thought you were cynical.

  5. I see we’ve come full circle back to our basic philosophical differences. To whit:

    “The American people don’t, by nature, want to “be taken care of”…

    I disagree. I think the American people don’t mind being taken care of. They just don’t want to acknowledge that they do–or are. They want themselves to be perceived as strong and independent by themselves and by other nations. They truly believe that this country is the most “free” country in the world. And that might be. But if they think that they are living in a country that is free of government intervention and can and should remain so–“Pure”–they are deluding themselves.

    I think they love “living the dream” and they want to continue to do so. I think they wouldn’t actually enjoy living in it after they experience the sacrifices that living the dream would entail…

  6. I agree that we differ on the question of liberty versus paternalism, but we also disagree that the American people are deluding themselves about it. I think the concept of individual liberty is central to the American psyche and the central thread in the founding of our country. That is the “American Exceptionalism” that President Obama so easily dismisses. This is still the only nation on Earth where the official role of government is to serve the people, even as our current administration is working hard to reverse that relationship.

    I think you are selling the American people short … and selling long the Utopians whose “dream” we would be living.

  7. Libby, the only people that like/want to be taken care of are those that cannot face life on their own two feet. Those that don’t want to admit or know about it are simply less honest then the rest.

  8. EW: I’ll reiterate my point, “I see we’ve come full circle back to our basic philosophical differences.” And I think you have confirmed that with your reference to “American Exceptionalism”.

    TV: Once again you have described me to a “T”. Dishonest and cannot face life on my own two feet. At my age I’d be hard pressed to take care of myself all by myself with no government assistance whatsoever. If you take away my Social Security and Medicare I’d be destitute and a castaway ready for the junk heap. I’d discuss this with you further when you reach my age, but I’ll be long-gone by then….I know… “Good riddance, you parasite!” LOL.

    I take exception to being accused of being dishonest, though. I’m very grateful for the government assistance I receive and I don’t deny that it is just that. It is a social contract that I have made and I strongly support that concept.

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