Elite individual power : who has it and what does it take ?

Many people who discess the enlightenment and social discuss the power of the masses versus the power of the lite. The supporters of the Enlightenment do not want “the elite” to roll back society to a more fuedal looking power structure. Who are the elite and where does real power reside ? Newsweek has a relevant article.

The Fed brought together the leaders of the world’s 14 major financial firms, from five countries, representing 95 percent of all the activity in global markets. The Swiss were there, the Germans were there, the British were there. Interestingly, no Asians were there, not even the Japanese. Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein “jokingly called them ‘the 14 families,’ like in ‘The Godfather’,” says Geithner. “And we said to them, “You guys have got to fix this problem. Tell us how you are going to fix it and we will work out some basic regime to make sure there are no free riders to give you comfort; you know that if you move individually everybody else will move with you.”

The people on the recent calls like those described by Geithner, plus a few thousand more like them, not only in business and finance, but also politics, the arts, the nonprofit world and other realms, are part of a new global elite that has emerged over the past several decades. I call it the “superclass.” They have vastly more power than any other group on the planet. Each of the members is set apart by his ability to regularly influence the lives of millions of people in multiple countries worldwide. Each actively exercises this power, and often amplifies it through the development of relationships with other superclass members. This new class of elites is both more permeable, and more transient, than elites of the past. The age of inherent lifelong power is largely behind us—to be a member of this superclass one has to hold on to power just long enough to make an impact, be it by leading a revolution or launching a revolutionary Web site.

That such a group exists is indisputable. It includes the heads of the biggest financial institutions, the 14 families Blankfein joked about, and then some; the top 50 control almost $50 trillion in assets. The heads of the world’s biggest corporations are also members; the top 2,000 support perhaps 500 million people, generate almost $30 trillion in sales and have well over $100 trillion in assets. The list also includes top government officials with real cross-border influence: heads of state, of course, leading diplomats and military chiefs, but also central bankers like Geithner and Bernanke, and their counterparts like Chinese Central Bank Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan, reappointed this week, and the other top economic officials responsible for the world’s fastest-growing economy and its nearly $1.5 trillion in reserves.

They are joined by media barons like Rupert Murdoch, whose global network of newspapers, Web products, movie studios and TV stations reach hundreds of millions of people every day, or tech entrepreneurs like Facebook wunderkind, 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, whose company is redefining what global community means. Alongside them you’ll also find those who have different forms of power: religious leaders from the pope to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, perhaps the most powerful man in the Middle East today; clerics who have taken to a media pulpit and reach millions around the world daily like Latin America’s Luis Palau or the Egyptian “tele-Muslim,” former accountant turned religious TV star Amr Khaled. Cultural icons who use their celebrity platforms for activism like Bono and Angelina Jolie would certainly make the list, as would terrorist leaders and others who form a kind of shadow elite, like Osama bin Laden or the recently arrested arms dealer, Russia’s Viktor Bout. A growing number of tycoons from emerging markets make the cut: Indian industrialist Ratan Tata, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, Saudi oil investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and Chinese real-estate billionaire Yang Huiyan, among others.

One can debate who is in and who is out endlessly. Indeed, given that so much power today is institutional or job related (and thus fleeting), any ranked list is out of date almost as soon as it’s finished.

A core group of somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 people—meaning that each one is “one in a million”

Says Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Wall Street’s Blackstone Group, “The world is pretty small. In almost every one of the areas in which I am dealing or in which we at Blackstone are looking at deals, you find it is just 20, 30 or 50 people worldwide who drive the industry or the sector.”

For media access and influence for individuals one really needs to have weekly audiences of 3 million+ to have not elite power but some semblance of somewhat significant influence. Although this can be greater if the influence over a smaller group is stronger. 10,000 in a fanatical army willing to die for you versus 10 million casual listeners (ditto heads).

For elite media power, moguls own multiple major newspapers, radio stations, internet outlets and television stations in multiple countries. The collective audience should exceed 200 million and be around 500 million to one billion.

Media power is just one possible venue to achieve power. There is political, military, wealth, corporate power etc…

Where do people get there news

1 thought on “Elite individual power : who has it and what does it take ?”

  1. Does anyone else find it of interest that, while the environmentalists trumpet the “peak oil” or “limited uranium supply” alarm, the industries on which an adequate supply of each being necessary for their future success are ramping up their production and use of that resource? New deposits of all resources are routinely found, and in otherwise unlikely places, no less!

    Seems to me that the “news of their imminent demise”, if I can paraphrase Mark Twain, is premature.

  2. Perhaps the oil companies are not addicted to an environmental apocalypse with massive human die off?

    Quasi-religious ideologies can throw a lot of people off track.

  3. >That is because the oil industry
    >does not believe in peak oil.

    That is like saying the tobacco industry doesn’t believe that smoking has health risks. Of course they know about it, it is just not in their interest to let it show.

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