10 year forecast: The Overton window

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Politics today is radically different from what it was 10 years ago. Back in the 90s, ideas like Brexit or nationalisation were unthinkable, but now they’re serious policy suggestions.
The Overton window (shown here in yellow) can slide anywhere across the political spectrum
Image: Vox on Youtube

The Overton window frames all of these policies, or things that the political mainstream deem acceptable at a given time. This changes constantly (the window has shifted to become much more LGBT-friendly over the last decade, for example), and over the next ten years, it is unlikely it will shift back to the centre. Radicalism has replaced centrism as the political norm.

We have seen shifts towards radicalism both in America with candidates like Bernie Sanders, and in the UK with Jeremy Corbyn. With elections coming up in both these countries, it is difficult to see a way in which the Overton window can shift back to where it was ten years ago. This is especially true when one considers it is near impossible for centrist parties like the Liberal Democrats to form a majority government.

Politicians like Bernie Sanders have helped move the Overton window to the left
Image: Gage Skidmore on Flickr

With regards to policy, the climate crisis means that ideas that we now think of as radical, like the Green New Deal, will have to become accepted in order to deal with the existential threat of climate change. Similarly, technological advances and automation mean that ideas like universal basic income may have to be seriously considered, as work becomes less available.

The Overton window has already shifted, but it will need to shift even further to deal with the issues that the world will face in the next decade. If we want to properly deal with issues like climate change, we cannot afford for it to shift towards the centre.

Last modified: 4th December 2019

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