Back in 2019, Abigail Disney — granddaughter of Walt Disney Company co-founder Roy O. Disney, and grand-niece of Walt — very publicly criticized the insane compensation packages received by current Disney CEO Bob Iger. This was unexpected, to say the least; you don't often hear about someone born into a nearly incomprehensible family trustfund to say that some other billionaire doesn't deserve the money they make off the backs of underpaid workers. But she wasn't wrong, either.
In the wake of the recent ProPublica revelations about the absurd legal tax rules that benefit billionaires, Disney has raised her voice once again. In a recent piece of The Atlantic, she very candidly discusses the mechanisms that brainwash inheritors like herself from very early ages, convincing them that the entitlement of their birth is in fact well-deserved, and must be protected at all costs. It's blunt, it's scathing, and it's … pretty much spot-on.
Disney bashes the demonstrably false notion — particularly popular among the wealthy — that all government spending is inherently bad and irresponsible. And she acknowledges that it's a fiction she was taught to believe, and that it took her a long time to break free from that brainwashing. She admits that the methods of tax avoidance as detailed in the ProPublica are the exact same schemes that have been proposed to her — ones she's regretfully taken advantage of! — by financial advisors who genuinely seemed to care for her and her financial well-being. These white men (always white men) have all been kind and well-intentioned people, Disney asserts, but they were also brainwashed by these same self-perpetuating systems of dynastic wealth to believe their own BS.
But, as Disney explains, that system of capital rewarding capital is very, very good at maintaining its own power:
When you come into money as I did—young, scared, and not very savvy about the world—you are taught certain precepts as though they are gospel: Never spend the "corpus" (also known as the capital) you were left. Steward your assets to leave even more to your children, and then teach them to do the same. […] Philanthropy is good, but too much of it is unseemly and performative. Marry people "of your own class" to save yourself from the complexity and conflict that come with a broad gulf in income, assets, and, therefore, power. And, as one of my uncles said to me during the Reagan administration, it's best to leave the important decision making to people who are "successful," rather than in the pitiable hands of those who aren't.
I took far too long to look with clarity upon these precepts and see them for what they are: blueprints for dynastic wealth. Why it took me so long is a fair question. All I know is that if you are a fish, it is hard to describe water, much less to ask if water is necessary, ethical, and structured the way it ought to be. As long as no one so much as raised an eyebrow about the ethics of the CRAT, the CRUT, and the credit swap, who did I think I was to query the fundamentals?
By the end of her essay, Abigail Disney proudly embraces her identity as a class traitor — which is not something I ever expected to see.
I Was Taught From a Young Age to Protect My Dynastic Wealth [Abigail Disney / The Atlantic]
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