Don’t Cry for Conchita (or the rest of Dogland)

Today, the WSJ covers a tale of trusts & estates intrigue even more compelling than Leona Helmsley’s:

Her name is Conchita, a thin, spa-loving, diamond-draped heiress, and she’s at the center of one of America’s nastiest estate battles. She is also a dog—a chihuahua who was the favorite of the late Miami heiress Gail Posner, a daughter of the corporate takeover artist Victor Posner. When Ms. Posner died in March at age 67, Conchita and two other dogs inherited the right to live in her seven-bedroom, $8.3 million Miami Beach mansion, their comfort ensured by a $3 million trust fund.

The story reminded me of the following passage from Korzeniewicz & Moran’s 2009 book, Unveiling Inequality:

The magnitude of global disparities can be illustrated by considering the life of dogs in the United States. According to a recent estimate . . . in 2007-2008 the average yearly expenses associated with owning a dog were $1425 . . . For sake of argument, let us pretend that these dogs in the US constitute their own nation, Dogland, with their average maintenance costs representing the average income of this nation of dogs.

By such a standard, their income would place Dogland squarely as a middle-income nation, above countries such as Paraguay and Egypt. In fact, the income of Dogland would place its canine inhabitants above more than 40 percent of the world population. . . . And if we were to focus exclusively on health care expenditures, the gap becomes monumental: the average yearly expenditures in Dogland would be higher than health care expenditures in countries that account for over 80% of the world population. (xv)


It should come as no wonder, then, that pelicans in the Gulf may well be getting more attention than Nigerians subject to the “equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every year for 50 years.” As writer Ben Ikari puts it,

If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention . . . This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta. . . . The oil companies just ignore it. The lawmakers do not care and people must live with pollution daily. The situation is now worse than it was 30 years ago. Nothing is changing. When I see the efforts that are being made in the US I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards. What they do in the US or in Europe is very different.

Fractal inequality has sorted individuals into radically different social worlds. And as J. Paul Getty put it, “The meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights.” Or the Miami Beach mansion.

Image Credit: Details below.

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