I always get a kick out of the annual list published by Forbes singling out the richest people in the country. It's almost as amusing as those on the list bickering over their placement. Like Donald Trump, who suggested last week that he was worth $6 billion while according to the magazine, the celebrity real estate magnate was good for just $2.6 billion.

While the names tend to be mostly the same from year to year I do enjoy the refreshing additions -- such as this year's inclusion of the founders of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) after the online search giant's successful IPO.

Yet despite a list that now includes a record 313 billionaires, the stories that I have seen tend to showcase only the top 10. That's a pretty boring assessment because over the last few years it's been pretty much the same names. Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK.A) Warren Buffett, and Paul Allen (who has always drawn a crowd investing his Microsoft money) have been the predictable leaders over the past three years.

Naturally the next five names on the list are descendants of Wal-Mart's (NYSE:WMT) Sam Walton. The only difference in this year's list is that Dell's (NASDAQ:DELL) Michael Dell has moved up one spot to ninth while Oracle's (NASDAQ:ORCL) Larry Ellison -- who just four years ago was second -- moves to 10th.

But is this list supposed to inspire us all to create the next great operating system or to start selling computers out of our Austin dorm room? Are we supposed to muster some pity because Bill Gates' value has gone from $63 billion to $48 billion over the last four years?

Perhaps the one definite conclusion that we can arrive at from all this is that every single one of those names wouldn't be on the list if it wasn't for the stock market. Public opinion ultimately priced their companies. So doesn't that make the rankings a popularity contest? If that's the case, don't tell Ellison.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz thinks that the Wal-Mart Waltons should all morph into one person and trounce Gates' top ranking. He does not own shares in any company mentioned in this story.