Power to the papal

It’s great reading something like Forbes’s annual power rankings, because you get article teasers like this: “There are nearly 7.2 billion people on the planet. These are the 72 that matter the most” and puffed-chest pronouncements like this, touting the methodology used in compiling the

annual snapshot of the heads of state, financiers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who truly run the world. The list represents the collective wisdom of top FORBES editors, who consider hundreds of nominees before ranking the planet’s 72 power brokers — one for every 100 million on Earth.

Forbes measures power “along four dimensions”: whether the candidate “has power over lots of people,” the financial resources each candidate controls, whether “the candidate is powerful in multiple spheres,” and whether the candidate “actively uses that power.” By those criteria Vladimir Putin tops this year’s list, with Barack Obama falling to second and Xi Jinping, secretary general of the Communist Party of China, coming in third.

Fourth? Pope Francis, whose title Forbes helpfully lists as “pope.” His “power profile” doesn’t immediately make clear the criteria that helped Francis finish that high. But then here’s another great paragraph, again from the methodology, that sheds some light and includes an interesting juxtaposition:

Pope Francis (No. 4) is the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, or about 1/6th of the world’s population. Michael Duke (No. 10), CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, employs 2.1 million people and is the top private employer on the planet.

Thus, Forbes Dimension Number One: power over lots of people (just like Benedict, who made the top ten in previous years). As for Bill Gates, David Cameron, and Benjamin Netanyahu: all comparative weaklings. The evidence is here.

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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