Political science

The Axis of Envy or The Overton Window as it applies to blogs

A reader emails some thoughts about media, blogs and the future:

Hi Cam

On holiday now and have some time to ponder the role of Blogs in NZ.

The New Zealand Herald, TV3 and TVNZ (The Main Stream Media or MSM) are not comfortable with the rise of Blogs and especially the rise of Whaleoil.  I have spent some time considering this and believe the major driver for their concern is that they fear the loss of their privileged position as the ordained elite guardians of enlightened thought in New Zealand.

To understand this we first need to understand the Overton Window.  The Overton Window concept comes out of an American Think Tank (www.mackinac.org) and was created by Joe Overton in the mid 90’s. Joe wrote an essay in which he observed that any collection of public policies within a policy area, such as education, can be arranged in order from more free to less free (or from less government intervention to more).

He also noticed that debates on policy tended to be limited by the boundaries of public acceptance, and ideas outside those boundaries are usually rejected with little examination. If the change you are pushing is outside of those boundaries, your chances for reasoned debate and more importantly changes to public policy or law are very low. Overton called these boundaries a window and hence the term The Overton Window.   Read more »

Delingpole on the liberal-left’s weasel words

James Delingpole does not tolerate fools and especially detests the liberal-left, especially when they hijack the language.

Not so long ago – and indeed for the first five hundred and fifty odd years of its recorded usage – a subsidy was something quite clearly understood by everyone to mean a cash incentive.

Here, for example, is the online Merriam-Webster definition:

Money that is paid usually by a government to keep the price of a product or service low or to help a business or organization to continue to function

Here is the one from my Chambers dictionary:

Aid in the form of money; a grant of public money in aid of some enterprise, industry etc; or to support or keep down the price of a commodity, or from one state to another.

This is certainly the sense in which I have always understood the word. I would suspect the same is true for most of you. So I would argue that there is something slippery and disingenuous about that claim above that there is no “internationally agreed definition of what constitutes energy subsidy.” Yes there is. Everyone – every normal, reasonably well-educated, English-speaking person, at any rate – would know instantly what constitutes “subsidy”, regardless of whether or not the word “energy” is put in front of it. It means a cash incentive.

What it definitely doesn’t mean is a tax reduction. Why doesn’t it mean this? Well, let’s examine the logic for a moment. Suppose I were to mug you in the street and steal, say, £100 from you. But then, in a fit of generosity, I decided to hand you back a tenner so you could get a cab home. Could that tenner be reasonably described as a “gift” or a “donation”? Well, yes, I suppose at an enormous stretch, it could just about. “Dono” means “I give” in Latin, so, yes, when I give you back that “tenner” it could be construed as a gift or a donation.

But only by someone lacking in any kind of moral responsibility, or intellectual consistency, or understanding of sense, context and nuance. No sensitive user of the English language would ever employ the word “gift” or “donation” in such a perverted way.   Read more »

A good question

Never forget where socialism leads…and answer this very good question:

What is it about the “noble ideals” of socialism that makes people forget the lessons of their actual practice?

If you need yet another reminder, visit Prague. This ancient city, the gem of central Europe, has seen its share of both glory and depredation. Walking its pristine streets while admiring the architectural artistry, overflowing shops, and lively nightlife, it’s hard to imagine that these proud and prosperous people languished for half a century under the boot of Communism.