We live in a world with some staggeringly powerful people. The world is how we know it largely due to these individuals, and so much power in the hands of so few people can be alarming and not necessarily in the best interest of millions of people. Forbes magazine recently published their “World’s Most Powerful” list, with some fascinating and surprising results. This power is quantified by power over a lot of people, financial resources, having reach across the planet and in different areas, and whether or not they actively used their power. This is the (known) global elite.
10. Larry Page
Beating out the likes of many world leaders is Larry Page, co-founder of Google. Page is just 42 years old but has a net worth of a jaw dropping $37.9 billion, and he is the CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. (this includes Google, The Google X Lab, Calico, Nest and Fiber). Under the guidance of Page, Alphabet aims to deliver major advancements in a number of different industries, with Google’s Sidewalk Labs being an example this year. Page first found his fortune through co-founding Google, which of course has completely revolutionized the Internet and consequently much of the world. Their initial goal was to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” and the overwhelming success of this has enabled Page and Google to go on and do many great things. Page resides in Palto Alto, California, and is married with two children.
9. Narendra Modi
The Prime Minister of India (the second-most populous country), Narendra Modi is ranked as the 9th most powerful person in the world for 2015. In his first year in office, Modi presided over 7.4% GDP growth and his popularity as a global leader has grown following visits with Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, as well as his tech savvy image (he is the second most followed politician on social media). Since becoming Prime Minister, Modi has improved foreign relations, improved national standards of health and sanitation, encouraged increased foreign direct investment and aimed to reform and modernize India’s infrastructure and government. He has also been praised for initiatives including Digital India, Make in India and Swachh Bharat Mission. Despite all this positive work, he remains a somewhat controversial figure and faced some criticism as Chief Minister of Gujarat, particularly for failing to prevent the 2002 riots.
8. David Cameron
The UK may not be huge in size, but it is an extremely powerful island nation that is led by David Cameron, who is the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron has retained positive relationships with the US and the rest of the West, making him a key figurehead and important politician. After a hung parliament in 2010, Cameron became PM as the leader of a coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. He held onto his spot after winning the re-election in May, and now presides over the UK’s first conservative majority government in 23 years. Due to the financial crisis, his time in charge has seen large-scale changes to education and healthcare, welfare and immigration policy. This has caused plenty of controversy, protest and allegations of social elitism. The 49-year-old is married with four children, and studied at both Eton College and Oxford University.
7. Janet Yellen
American economist Janet Yellen made history last year by becoming the first woman to become the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, having previously served as Vice Chair from 2010 to 2014 as nominated by President Barack Obama. This makes her immensely powerful, and she got straight to work ushering six cuts that brought monthly purchases from a peak of $85 billion to $0. The 69-year-old has been hugely influential and important in economic and monetary affairs throughout her career, following her time at both Brown and Yale. This has included Chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, vice president of the American Economic Association, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and she is also Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkley, Haas School of Business. She is married with one child.
6. Bill Gates
Currently the richest man in the world, Bill Gates has a net worth of $79.4 billion. It all started 40 years ago, when Gates and Paul Allen launched Microsoft with the goal of putting a computer on every person’s desk. This would become the largest PC software company in the world, and he his consequently a crucial figure in the personal computer revolution. He held the position of CEO, chairman and chief software architect, and until last year he was the largest individual shareholder. With his success, he has embarked on many philanthropic endeavors, most notably forming the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife. This foundation has aims to globally enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and domestically to expand educational opportunities. The couple have put in over $30 billion, and they are ranked as the second most generous philanthropists in America (trustee Warren Buffett being the first).
5. Xi Jinping
Some say that Xi Jinping is the most powerful Chinese ruler since Mao Zedong, and is informally referred to as the “paramount leader.” This is because he is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, the President of the People’s Republic of China and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Holding the top offices of the party and the military of the world’s most populous country make him astronomically powerful, as China has the second largest economy in the world, the largest standing army (also a nuclear weapons state) and the second largest defense budget. Ruler of a potential superpower, Xi Jinping has fought against corruption, fought for greater economic and security alliances, and centralized institutional power. He has made many foreign trips, including Russia, the US, Tanzania, throughout Western Europe, India and Pakistan. He is famous for referring to his ideology as “The Chinese Dream.”
4. Pope Francis
The Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis is the leader of the Catholic church and consequently is the spiritual leader of over 1.25 million people around the world (one-sixth of the population). Elected at the age of 76 in 2013, Francis is the first pope from the Americas (Argentina). He has worked hard to alter the longstanding image of the Catholic Church, including being less formal and more humble than his predecessors. This also includes signaling for the church to quiet its focus on abortion, contraceptives and gay marriage, and preaching for greater roles for women and compassion for the poor. This has seen him labeled as progressive with liberal values, and he was named “Person of the Year” in 2013 by Time and The Advocate. In a trip to the US this year, he urged action on climate change, immigration and the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East.
3. Barack Obama
The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama is the leader of the world’s only recognized superpower. The US is the greatest economic, cultural, diplomatic, technological and military power, and this makes Obama an incredibly powerful individual and many see him as the leader of the Western world. He became the first black President of the United States in 2009, and was re-elected in November of 2012. As the leader of the US, Obama has done a remarkable amount during his time and has retained an image of a friendly, intelligent and peaceful individual which makes him well respected by many. Obamacare, the Job Creation Act, the death of Osama Bin Laden, LGBT rights, normalizing relations with Cuba, and military intervention in response to gains made by the Islamic State are all key parts of his presidency. He is ineligible to seek re-election in the 2016 Presidential election.
2. Angela Merkel
The most powerful woman in the world for a decade, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now deemed more powerful than the President of the United States (largely due to the looming 2016 Presidential Election). Just under a year ago, Merkel won a third four-year term of Europe’s most vibrant economy. She is often described as the de facto leader of the European Union, and is the longest-serving incumbent head of government in the EU. She has had a crucial role in the managing of the global financial crisis, and is often referred to as “the decider.” She has been active in trying to broker a peace deal with Vladimir Putin in the Russia-Ukraine crisis, and been active in the fight against ISIS. However, there is some concern domestically over her “open-door” policy in regards to refugees, which some believe could lead to her downfall as “Queen of Europe.”
1. Vladimir Putin
Ranked the most powerful person in the world is the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Putin previously served as President from 2000 to 2008, and as Prime Minister of Russia from 1999 to 2000 and 2008 to 2012. Putin’s approval ratings have reached an all-time high of 89%, despite Russia’s deepening recession due to international sanctions following the annexation of Crimea and war in Ukraine. Although separate from the West, a change in relations appears on the horizon following the Paris attacks and the downing of the Russian passenger jet. Putin appears to be directing the war against terror, and what will surely become a famous photo showed Putin and Obama huddled in deep conversation at the G20 Summit on November 15th. Putin has since been labeled a “constructive partner” by Obama in the attempts to end the Syrian civil war.