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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘World’s most powerful’ list shows anyone has potential

    Last week Forbes Magazine released its annual list of the “World’s Most Powerful People,” a ranking of the 70 “people that matter” most. Though perhaps not as iconic as Forbes’ Billionaires List, the “World’s Most Powerful People,” and especially its top 10, is more telling of the state of the world. There are surprising insights about the way all of the 7 billion of us exist when viewed through the lens of the most important 10 among us (or, at least, according to Forbes).

    Coming in at at the top is President Barack Obama, followed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Much has been made about the fact that a black man has become the leader of the free world, but aside from that there are few surprises in the top three. Something can be said about the fact that Russia’s leader outpaces China’s, but that has more to do with personal conditions than national ones (Vladimir Putin will almost assuredly become president of his country soon; Hu Jintao will almost certainly be leaving his post).

    Angela Merkel, the world’s most powerful woman and the leader of Germany, the biggest economy in Europe, comes in fourth, and Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, rounds out the top five. As for the bottom rung of the top 10, the king of Saudi Arabia comes after Gates, followed by the pope, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

    So there is the .000000001 percent of us at the top of our social pyramid, if we take a business publication as our official guide. Even if you disagree with Forbes rankings, what does this list say about the world we live in? To start, let’s take the oldest and the youngest, at least in terms of their sources of power. Pope Benedict XVI heads the Catholic Church, an organization that has officially existed for 2011 years. In contrast, Mark Zuckerberg created his empire a whopping seven years ago. What does this represent, besides an interesting statistical comparison?

    Put simply, in today’s world, a young kid can create something in college that has similar weight to an organization that has convinced two millennia of adherents to follow it.

    If further proof is needed, the original wunderkind Bill Gates not only also makes the list, but leaves Benedict behind. And let’s not forget Gates planted the seeds of his empire when he was also a young man, while the pope was already an old man when he ascended to his position.

    So age of organization or candidate is no longer a barrier to ultimate power. What else can be gleaned from looking over this list? Those that are ringing the death knell of American power might be having second thoughts if they believe in the Forbes rankings. No fewer than four Americans make the grade, and one of them is the first among 7 billion. Alas, the pessimists might say, “so what?” Of course America can still project military and political power, but its economy is in shambles. But take another look.

    Besides our leader (and ipso facto our economic policymaker in chief), the Americans on this list are two businessmen and a banker. The American economy may be feeble when compared to itself in former days, but its faces still loom large on the world stage. That ought to give Americans hope about economic strength.

    So it’s good to be young, innovative and American, and that ought to give young, innovative Americans hope. But what is the single best indicator of rising to the top of the world? The funny thing about this list is that, really, it is simply being human. There are six world leaders, two businessmen, two religious figures (if you count Saudi Arabia’s role in shaping Islamic policy), and a government banker. A man with African ancestry tops the list, a woman comes quite close to doing so, and a range of ages, nationalities and ideologies are represented. The diversity of our top 10 is perhaps the best and most hopeful thing about them.

    Whether new power or old power, state-sanctioned or self-made, strictly traditional or radically liberal, every one of us appears to have the potential to have a seat at the table of power and importance. That’s a more comforting thought than one would expect to find reading about the “World’s Most Powerful People.”

    — Andrew Conlogue is a junior studying philosophy, politics, economics and law. He can be reached at

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