Disney heiress Abigail Disney on why the 1% thinks paying zero income tax is morally proper (but she says it’s wrong)

Disney, writing at The Atlantic: I Was Taught From a Young Age to Protect My Dynastic Wealth:

What motivates people with so much money to try to withhold every last bit of it from the public’s reach?

It’s because they think they’re better than other people on account of being wealthy, even though all but the first generation got to be wealthy by simply being born. And being born is something I guarantee that even the most impoverished person in the world has done, and done it exactly as well as the 1% did.


One factor is the common ideology that underlies all of these practices: The government is bad and cannot be trusted with money. Far better for the wealthy to keep as much of it as possible for themselves and use (a fraction of) it to do benevolent things through philanthropy.

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. And finally, use every tool at your disposal within the law, especially through estate planning, to keep as much of that money as possible out of the hands of government bureaucrats who will only misuse it.

If you are raised in a deeply conservative family like my own, you are taught some extra bits of doctrine: 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….

Again,the only thing that Disney’s uncle — and Disney herself — did to earn their wealth, is being born. If that’s a measure of being “successful,” then every one of the 7 billion people on the planet is successful.

Also keeping the cycle going:

Having money—a lot of money—is very, very nice. It’s damn hard to resist the seductions of what money buys you. I’ve never been much of a materialist, but I have wallowed in the less concrete privileges that come with a trust fund, such as time, control, security, attention, power, and choice. The fact is, this is pretty standard software that comes with the hardware of a human body.

As time has passed, I have realized that the dynamics of wealth are similar to the dynamics of addiction. The more you have, the more you need. Whereas once a single beer was enough to achieve a feeling of calm, now you find that you can’t stop at six. Likewise, if you move up from coach to business to first class, you won’t want to go back to coach. And once you’ve flown private, wild horses will never drag you through a public airport terminal again.

Comforts, once gained, become necessities. And if enough of those comforts become necessities, you eventually peel yourself away from any kind of common feeling with the rest of humanity.”

UPDATE: The first pass at this post was unclear — Disney is explaining what her peers in the 1% think; she says it’s improper. Several people on Twitter pointed this out to me, including Disney herself.

Also, I initially referred to Disney as a “class traitor,” which is sometimes used as an honorific to refer to rich people who take the side of working people. That’s how I intended it, but that wasn’t clear.

I apologize to Ms. Disney.