The reform train

The previous post explained the idea of Overton window. This post aims to understand the concept through the example of a push-pull locomotive. A Push-Pull train is one where locomotives at both ends of a train are used at the same time to move the train in one direction — both the locomotives are controlled by one pilot.

Push-pull train[1]

push pull

push-pull locomotive


Government reforms operate like the Pull- Pull model ie., locomotives on both sides are pulling the train apart in opposite directions. Both the directions are pulled by separate pilots, and the reform train stands still.  The train can be thought of as the Overton window whose motion is dependent on which side the force is stronger. The force required to pull the train on either side depends on what the societal majority prefers. Needless to say, like social change, reforms are slow and deliberate that take enormous effort and conviction.

pull pull

This analysis might lead us to make fatalistic conclusions. It is here that newspapers, opinion makers, social media et al play an important role in the moulding public opinion and thus help move the Overton Window. Which side the window moves depends on how public opinion is moulded, but it for certain that these elements are unconstrained by electoral calculations and therefore are critical; a politicians motto might be to win the elections, but a common man’s motto is to lead a happy and a prosperous life and this is only possible through an efficient government.

PS – The famous “push-pull” night train between Mysore and Bangalore takes 5.5hours to travel 140km.

PPS- The original Overton window was presented with a vertical alignment to avoid the “right”/”left” connotation. Although horizontally aligned, the author does not assume right/left connotations in the locomotive example.

[1] The image is taken from wikipedia

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