'Democracy on Trial' was presented by Michael Portillo on Thursday 17 November at 6pm at the Said Business School.
Michael Portillo asked why it is that after the democratic experiment in Athens in the fifth century BC, the world put democracy away for two thousand years, and why it was that most thinkers from Plato onwards regarded it as a dangerous thing. Were they right to believe that democracy would lead to the brutality of mob rule?
Portillo argued that democracy must be regarded even today as unproven, because its modern history is short and it has only recently become a global phenomenon. Do our present discontents suggest that democracies will always make short-term decisions, passing baleful consequences to future generations? Is there an incompatibility between democracy, which is about equality at the ballot box, and capitalism, which necessarily entails inequalities of outcome?