This Life: Top of the world (if you're male and American)

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The Independent Online
The American magazine Vanity Fair has compiled a list of the world's most powerful people. Oddly enough, nearly half of the people on the list are American. Andrew Marshall is unimpressed. The titans of the world, the global autocrats, are all there: Bill Clinton, Jiang Zemin, Boris Yeltsin and... Jacques Santer.

Jacques Santer?

Vanity Fair has produced what purports to be a definitive index of the 65 Men and Women Who Shape and Rule the World Today. As the magazine proudly announces, "Vanity Fair dispatched the largest stable of photographers it has ever assembled for a single project." No expense has been spared.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of intelligence. The list is, to put it kindly, eccentric; to be less kind, it is dumb. The basic premise of the Vanity Fair powerbrokers seems to be that if you are American, then you are mighty.

Twenty-nine of the total are American, including all the usual suspects (Clinton and Al Gore, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, the heads of General Electric, General Motors, Boeing and Chrysler, etc). But there are some very odd names: Colin Powell wielded immense influence as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but perhaps in civvies he does not. Equally, some of the research is wobbly. General John Shalikashvilli is listed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but he retired last week.

Some of the names represent people who, while eminent and respectable, are hardly of intergalactic status. Take Mr Santer, for instance. Though the President of the European Commission is a nice enough chap, the earth hardly shakes when he walks by. Jean Chretien, Prime Minister of Canada, is undoubtedly one of the Men and Women who Shape and Rule Canada; but the world? Really?

There are only four women listed: Madeleine Albright, Queen Elizabeth II, Katherine Graham of the Washington Post, and Mary Robinson, High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN, indicating a certain narrowness. of view.

That is evident, too, in the lack of representation of certain countries, continents even. India? No one powerful there. Nope, no one to rival the publisher of the New York Times, or its Chairman. (Both are on the list.)

China? One person out of 1.4 billion should do them. Indonesia's President Suharto, ruler of 110 million people, hardly measures up to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, according to the geopolitical genii of Vanity Fair.