Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Global billionaire political power index

The Czech and Slovak media were somewhat excited about a fun new "index" by the U.S. sociologist Darrell West:
The global billionaire political power index
The 15 world's politically most influential dollar billionaires are said to possess these faces:

You see that the fifth one is a Slovak-born food industry mogul and Czech vice-PM Andrej Babiš, the leader of a somewhat kitschy "apolitical" Czech movement ANO (=YES).

This ranking looks sort of sexy but the science behind it is as soft as you can get. For example, the author said that Andrej Babiš got so powerful also because he acquired MAFRA, a major network of newspapers, which allowed him to become a key political player (with over 20% in the most recent parliamentary elections). The truth is that Babiš only bought MAFRA after he co-won those elections (the social democracy had just a slightly better result).

The most powerful billionaire is Melinda Gates who got her money by having married a Commodore 64 programmer Bill (also shown on the picture, albeit less prominently). She is influential because she is doing some old-fashioned mainstream charity work, we're told.

Well, I think that the #2 man, George Soros, should probably be at the top. This socialist jerk who initially joined the very rich men club after he sabotaged the currency of the United (soon to be Divided?) Kingdom is undermining governments across the world, organizing color revolutions at many places, and covertly or overtly paying various anti-capitalist movements such as or the climate change psychopaths at, among many others.

Jack Ma is the boss of the Chinese e-shop Alibaba Group. I don't do shoppings over there and I don't understand in what sense his influence is political in character, but I will shut up because I have almost no idea about these Chinese matters.

Petro Poroshenko produces Ukrainian chocolate (it's being banned in Russia these days) and he has also become the president of Ukraine. Given the importance of his country for the question whether the world peace is going to continue, he might be currently at #2 right after Soros.

But the fifth guy is Andrej Babiš. He became rich in agriculture and food industry because he was already doing similar things during communism – selling the Czechoslovak food products to the Arabs, among others. During communism, he was also probably an agent of the communist secret police nicknamed "Bureš".

He got involved in Czech politics because the most important Czech politician of the last decade, Václav Klaus, made him upset at some point, so he created the ANO movement that is totally empty of any conceptual ideas about the right ways to organize the human society. He's living a relaxed life (his laughter in the top 15 may be the most genuine one) with a rather attractive wife who runs a successful restaurant in the French Riviera, among other things (see Andrej Babiš's edition of the Ice Challenge), and he represents exactly the kind of postmodern kitsch that many people (not only) in Czechia want to vote for.

Two weeks ago when Babiš went to visit France, a French customs officer picked Babiš for a random check at the airport. Babiš said that he was going to visit Hollande. The officer saw a rural bumpkin so he laughed out loud. However, Babiš finally convinced him, and in order to prepare additional evidence for future incidents of this sort, he took a selfie with Hollande. I am sure that this picture that many teenage girls probably boast as well will convince the officer next time!

Just to be sure, Babiš is not the only Slovak billionaire named Andrej who is powerful in politics. In recent Slovak presidential elections, social democratic PM Robert Fico sort of unexpectedly lost to another billionaire, financier Andrej Kiska. The latter became the Slovak president.

I don't really think that billionaires should be banned in politics or that they can't be good politicians. In particular, I think that most of the suggestions that it's an unavoidable "clash of interests" if someone is rich and politically active are just delusions of the jealous people. On the contrary, they may be OK and they have presented circumstantial evidence that they possess some skills that are not totally different from those that can make up a good politician. Still, the fact that the (de facto) most powerful politicians in Czechia, Slovakia, and Ukraine are billionaires seems to me like a testimony of a somewhat perverse influence of the "oligarchs" in the still somewhat wild post-communist world.

Carlos Slim Helu, a once wealthiest man in the world from Mexico (telephone providers), as well as Rupert Murdoch (who owns numerous conservative media) ended up beneath Babiš. Well, I am not sure whether Murdoch is really so relatively inconsequential. Maybe I would place him on #3 below Soros and Poroshenko. Thinking that Babiš is more powerful than e.g. Murdoch seems to assume that Babiš is close to being a Czech dictator, which he is not, and that Czechia is more important than e.g. Ukraine or Mexico or Fox News these days which I doubt, too.


  1. Wow, two Australian's in the top 15. Although Clive really shouldn't be there; there is a good deal of question as to whether he is a billionaire at all these days, and whether his influence is significant.

  2. Agree, lot of evidence that he is not very rich and may find himself in jail soon. Anyway Gina Rheinhart is much richer 15bn and more influential behind the scenes.

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