Revelation 17 is a picture of the political scene, at the end of the age. It is personified as a woman, sitting on a scarlet beast. This beast is the same "beast" of Revelation. 13.
This beast has the power of "the dragon." It has 7 heads and 10 horns. The 10 horns have 10 crowns (authority). One of his heads has a wound that is severe enough to cause death, but has been healed. The people "wonder after the beast."
Revelation 17 says the 10 horns are 10 kings which have no kingdom (now), but receive power as kings one hour with the beast (v. 12).
While the Revelation narrative is symbolic it is not allegorical. These are actual events, yet to be played out on the world stage. But what exactly are we looking at?
I believe this is describing an unholy alliance between a godless religious system (the woman), in league with a despotic, global, political system (the beast), intent on ruling the world in place of the promised Lord Jesus Christ.
In so doing, 10 kings come to power but without kingdoms. How is this possible?
Amsel Mayer Rothschild, a prominent 18th century banker is quoted as declaring, "Let me issue and control the money and I care not who makes the laws." 
The recent G-20 meetings in Europe produced a plan to establish a Financial Stability Board. It's mission will be to regulate all international financial institutions, with authority to regulate all "systemic firms and compensation."
We are watching our President do exactly this, as General Motors was required to fire their CEO and as the president appointed his own man to fill that position.
It would not surprise me to see a Stability Board made up of 10 nations which have global authority, but no political power, only to receive that power in the End Times.
The world's economic power is already concentrated in Roman-style democracies with political leaders working every day to globalize the economy as well as civil laws.
When this happens, what will stop "The Dragon" from taking over? Our commerce is already monitored and controlled through computerized transfers.
What would it take to add a 3-digit prefix to our bank accounts and credit cards, in order to join this global economy?