Economic Power: Definition and Ranking

Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

Learn about different kinds of international economic power and how nations are compared with each other economically. When you are finished, take the quiz and see what you've learned.

What is Economic Power?

Countries by GDP. The more money a nation makes in a year, the more economically powerful it is.
Countries by GDP

It's easy to look at the world and decide that since the U.S. has the most advanced weapons, it is the strongest power. Or because China has the biggest army, it must be. But there are other ways to have power. An intelligent leader might be able to get more for his/her country than an average one. And if its economy has something that others don't, then they can have economic power. A short definition of economic power is having either wealth, or a monopoly on a natural resource or technology.


When you think about it, money is power, purchasing power, whether you are on a personal or a national level. If a person has it, they can rent a theater for a private showing or buy a small army. If a nation has it the options are much broader. A country can control politics by funding one leader over another, if it wants to stay out of fighting. It can afford to set up and train, or simply buy, mercenaries for a special operation. It can also get them the best and latest equipment. A wealthy country can keep a huge military or do the research to defend it. Under the right circumstances, a nation could pay another country to protect it.

Natural Resources

If a country has access to something no one else has, or has very little of, that country also has economic power because of its monopoly. If South Africa stopped selling diamonds, for instance, they could drive prices up. If another country sold all of their reserves, they could bottom the market. Either option could mess up the world's economy because there is a lot of money invested in the price of diamonds. The same goes with oil and the Middle East. The less it produces, the more the world pays for gas. If it stopped selling oil altogether, the world would stop.

OPEC, or Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries

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