Loading Events

*This is an in-person event open to all members of the public. A complimentary reception will be served to all. To RSVP, please obtain your free ticket here

About the talk:

Margaret Thatcher memorably declared, “There is no alternative.” After the fall of the Berlin wall, many agreed: communism was over, and capitalism and liberal democracy were hegemonic. Forty years later, this confidence seems hubristic. Russia and China have taken the authoritarian path and successive economic crises have engulfed the US and Europe. Britain is experiencing a prolonged period of sluggish growth and stagnating living standards. The great institutions of the state seem to be stuck in continual crisis – political instability, infrastructure delays and uncertain responses to pandemics and other disasters.

Large sections of the populations of major western nations seem to have lost confidence in their rulers. Populists are challenging globalisation, environmental activists are contesting the idea of growth, and equality campaigners are questioning the extent of social progress. Digital media and identity politics fuels polarisation. Yet no side feels it is winning. It has almost become a cliché to say The End of History is… history.

But is liberal democracy as fragile as this description suggests? Which moral, cultural and intellectual reserves must our politicians and institutions draw upon for the challenges ahead? Are the ideas that have shaped western liberal democracies historically worth defending at all? In this conversation, esteemed thinkers Tyler Cowen and John Gray will discuss the potential challenges facing the democratic west and how we should address them.



Bush House Auditorium, King’s College London. For a map to Bush House, see here. To RSVP, please obtain your free ticket here.


About the Speakers:

Tyler Cowen is the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University and serves as chairman and faculty director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He is the co-author of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution and a host of Conversations with Tyler, a popular podcast series.

Cowen is the author of several bestselling books and is widely published in academic journals and the popular media. His e-book, The Great Stagnation, appeared twice on the New York Times e-book bestseller list. Columnist David Brooks declared it “the most debated nonfiction book so far this year.” Foreign Policy named Cowen as one of 2011’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers,” and an Economist survey counted him as one of the most influential economists of the last decade. Cowen’s latest book is Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World (2022).

John Gray is a philosopher and writer. He taught political theory at Oxford and LSE and was visiting professor at Harvard and Yale. He writes and reviews regularly for the New Statesman. His books include Post-liberalism: studies in Political Thought ( 1993), Two Faces of Liberalism (2000), False Dawn: the Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998), Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (2002), Al Qaeda and What It Means To be Modern (2003), Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia ( 2006), Gray’s Anatomy: Selected Writings (2010, 2016), The Immortalization Commission: the Strange Quest to Cheat Death (2011), The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths (2013), The Soul of the Marionette: a Short Inquiry into Human Freedom (2015), Seven Types of Atheism ( 2018) and Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life (2021). He is finishing a book on how the thought of Hobbes helps understand the present.

(Chair) Munira Mirza is the Chief Executive of Civic Future, a new educational organisation that exists to identify and support highly talented individuals committed to the values of liberal democracy to enter into positions of public leadership. Munira was the Director of the No 10 Policy Unit between 2019-2022, and was previously a Deputy Mayor for London. She studied at Oxford University and did her PhD in Sociology at the University of Kent. She has worked in senior positions in government, academia, business and the cultural sector and her publications include The Politics of Culture: The Case for Universalism (2011). She has served on the boards of the Royal Opera House, Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the West London Children’s Zone.

This event is jointly organised with Civic Future, a new organisation that identifies and supports highly talented individuals committed to the values of liberal democracy to enter public life. For more information about Civic Future, please visit here.