Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be an object, land/real estate or intellectual property. Ownership involves multiple rights, collectively referred to as title, which may be separated and held by different parties.

The process and mechanics of ownership are fairly complex: one can gain, transfer, and lose ownership of property in a number of ways. To acquire property one can purchase it with money, trade it for other property, win it in a bet, receive it as a gift, inherit it, find it, receive it as damages, earn it by doing work or performing services, make it, or homestead it. One can transfer or lose ownership of property by selling it for money, exchanging it for other property, giving it as a gift, misplacing it, or having it stripped from one's ownership through legal means such as eviction, foreclosure, seizure, or taking. Ownership is self-propagating in that the owner of any property will also own the economic benefits of that property.


Over the millennia and across cultures, notions regarding what constitutes "property" and how it is treated culturally have varied widely. Ownership is the basis for many other concepts that form the foundations of ancient and modern societies such as money, trade, debt, bankruptcy, the criminality of theft, and private vs. public property. Ownership is the key building block in the development of the capitalist socio-economic system. Adam Smith stated that one of the sacred laws of justice was to guard a person's property and possessions.[1]

Types of owners

In person

Individuals may own property directly. In some societies only adult men may own property; in other societies (such as the Haudenosaunee), property is matrilinear and passed on from mother to the offspring. In most societies both men and women can own property with no restrictions and limitations at all.

Structured ownership entities

Throughout history, nations (or governments) and religious organizations have owned property. These entities exist primarily for other purposes than to own or operate property; hence, they may have no clear rules regarding the disposition of their property.

To own and operate property, structures (often known today as legal entities) have been created in many societies throughout history. The differences in how they deal with members' rights is a key factor in determining their type. Each type has advantages and disadvantages derived from their means of recognizing or disregarding (rewarding or not) contributions of financial capital or personal effort.

Cooperatives, corporations, trusts, partnerships, and condominium associations are only some of the many varied types of structured ownership; each type has many subtypes. Legal advantages or restrictions on various types of structured ownership have existed in many societies past and present. To govern how assets are to be used, shared, or treated, rules and regulations may be legally imposed or internally adopted or decreed.

Liability for the group or for others in the group

Ownership by definition does not necessarily imply a responsibility to others for actions regarding the property. A "legal shield" is said to exist if the entity's legal liabilities do not get redistributed among the entity's owners or members. An application of this, to limit ownership risks, is to form a new entity to purchase, own and operate each property. Since the entity is separate and distinct from others, if a problem occurs which leads to a massive liability, the individual is protected from losing more than the value of that one property. Many other properties are protected, when owned by other distinct entities.

In the loosest sense of group ownership, a lack of legal framework, rules and regulations may mean that group ownership of property places every member in a position of responsibility (liability) for the actions of each other member. A structured group duly constituted as an entity under law may still not protect members from being personally liable for each other's actions. Court decisions against the entity itself may give rise to unlimited personal liability for each and every member. An example of this situation is a professional partnership (e.g. law practice) in some jurisdictions. Thus, being a partner or owner in a group may give little advantage in terms of share ownership while producing a lot of risk to the partner, owner or participant.

Sharing gains

At the end of each financial year, accounting rules determine a surplus or profit, which may be retained inside the entity or distributed among owners according to the initial setup intent when the entity was created. For public corporations, common shareholders have no right to receive any of the profit.

Entities with a member focus will give financial surplus back to members according to the volume of financial activity that the participating member generated for the entity. Examples of this are producer cooperatives, buyer cooperatives and participating whole life policyholders in both mutual and share-capital insurance companies.

Entities with share voting rights that depend on financial capital distribute surplus among shareholders without regard to any other contribution to the entity. Depending on internal rules and regulations, certain classes of shares have the right to receive increases in financial "dividends" while other classes do not. After many years the increase over time is substantial if the business is profitable. Examples of this are common shares and preferred shares in private or publicly listed share capital corporations.

Entities with a focus on providing service in perpetuam do not distribute financial surplus; they must retain it. It will then serve as a cushion against losses or as a means to finance growth activities. Examples of this are not-for-profit entities: they are allowed to make profits, but are not permitted to give any of it back to members except by way of discounts in the future on new transactions.

Depending on the charter at the foundation of the entity, and depending on the legal framework under which the entity was created, the form of ownership is determined once and for all time. To change it requires significant work in terms of communicating with stakeholders (member-owners, governments, etc.) and acquiring their approval. Whatever structural constraints or disadvantages exist at the creation thus remain an integral part of the entity. Common in for instance New York City, Hamburg and Berlin in Germany is a form of real estate ownership known as a cooperative (also co-operative or co-op, in German Wohnungsgenossenschaft - apartment co-operative, also "Wohnbaugenossenschaft" or simply "Baugenossenschaft") which relies heavily on internal rules of operation instead of the legal framework governing condominium associations. These "co-ops", owning the building for the mutual benefit of its members, can ultimately perform most of the functions of a legally constituted condominium, i.e. restricting use appropriately and containing financial liabilities to within tolerable levels. To change their structure now that they are up and operating would require significant effort to achieve acceptance among members and various levels of government.

Sharing use

The owning entity makes rules governing use of property; each property may comprise areas that are made available to any and every member of the group to use. When the group is the entire nation, the same principle is in effect whether the property is small (e.g. picnic rest stops along highways) or large such as national parks, highways, ports, and publicly owned buildings. Smaller examples of shared use include common areas such as lobbies, entrance hallways and passages to adjacent buildings.

One disadvantage of communal ownership, known as the Tragedy of the Commons, occurs where unlimited unrestricted and unregulated access to a resource (e.g. pasture land) destroys the resource because of over-exploitation. The benefits of exploitation accrue to individuals immediately, while the costs of policing or enforcing appropriate use, and the losses dues to over exploitation, are distributed among many, and are only visible to these gradually.

In a communist nation the means of production of goods would be owned communally by all people of that nation; the original thinkers did not specify rules and regulations.

Ownership models

Types of property

Personal property

Personal property is a type of property. In the common law systems personal property may also be called chattels. It is distinguished from real property, or real estate. In the civil law systems personal property is often called movable property or movables - any property that can be moved from one location or another. This term is used to distinguish property that different from immovable property or immovables, such as land and buildings. This also means the direct owner of the item(s) is in full control of them/it until either stolen, confiscated by law enforcement, or destroyed.

Personal property may be classified in a variety of ways, such as goods, money, negotiable instruments, securities, and intangible assets including choses in action.

Land ownership

Real estate or immovable property is a legal term (in some jurisdictions) that encompasses land along with anything permanently affixed to the land, such as buildings. Real estate (immovable property) is often considered synonymous with real property, in contrast from personal property (also sometimes called chattel or personalty). However, for technical purposes, some people prefer to distinguish real estate, referring to the land and fixtures themselves, from real property, referring to ownership rights over real estate. The terms real estate and real property are used primarily in common law, while civil law jurisdictions refer instead to immovable property.

In law, the word real means relating to a thing (from Latin reālis, ultimately from rēs, 'matter' or 'thing'), as distinguished from a person. Thus the law broadly distinguishes between real property (land and anything affixed to it) and personal property (everything else, e.g., clothing, furniture, money). The conceptual difference is between immovable property, which would transfer title along with the land, and movable property, which a person would retain title to. Incidentally, the word real in real estate is not derived from the notion of land having historically been "royal" property. The word royal—and its Spanish cognate, real—come from the unrelated Latin word rēgālis 'kingly,' which is a derivative of rēx, meaning 'king'.

With the development of private property ownership, real estate has become a major area of business.

Corporations and legal entities

An individual or group of individuals can own shares in corporations and other legal entities, but do not necessarily own the entities themselves. A legal entity is a legal construct through which the law allows a group of natural persons to act as if it were an individual for certain purposes.

Some duly incorporated entities may not be owned by individuals nor by other entities; they exist without being owned once they are created. Not being owned, they cannot be bought and sold. Mutual life insurance companies, credit unions, foundations and cooperatives, not for profit organizations, and public corporations are examples of this. No person can purchase the company, as their ownership is not legally available for sale, neither as shares nor as a single whole.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) refers to a legal entitlement which sometimes attaches to the expressed form of an idea, or to some other intangible subject matter. This legal entitlement generally enables its holder to exercise exclusive rights of use in relation to the subject matter of the IP. The term intellectual property reflects the idea that this subject matter is the product of the mind or the intellect, and that IP rights may be protected at law in the same way as any other form of property.

Intellectual property laws confer a bundle of exclusive rights in relation to the particular form or manner in which ideas or information are expressed or manifested, and not in relation to the ideas or concepts themselves (see idea-expression divide). It is therefore important to note that the term "intellectual property" denotes the specific legal rights which authors, inventors and other IP holders may hold and exercise, and not the intellectual work itself.

Intellectual property laws are designed to protect different forms of intangible subject matter, although in some cases there is a degree of overlap.

  • Copyright may subsist in creative and artistic works (e.g. books, movies, music, paintings, photographs and software), giving a copyright holder the exclusive right to control reproduction or adaptation of such works for a certain period of time.
  • A patent may be granted in relation to an invention that is new, useful and not simply an obvious advancement over what existed when the application was filed. A patent gives the holder an exclusive right to commercially exploit the invention for a certain period of time (typically 20 years from the filing date of a patent application).
  • A trademark is a distinctive sign which is used to distinguish the products or services of one business from those of another business.
  • An industrial design right protects the form of appearance, style or design of an industrial object (e.g. spare parts, furniture or textiles).
  • A trade secret (also known as "confidential information") is an item of confidential information concerning the commercial practices or proprietary knowledge of a business.

Patents, trademarks and designs fall into a particular subset of intellectual property known as industrial property.

Like other forms of property, intellectual property (or rather the exclusive rights which subsist in the IP) can be transferred (with or without consideration) or licensed to third parties. In some jurisdictions it may also be possible to use intellectual property as security for a loan.

The basic public policy rationale for the protection of intellectual property is that IP laws facilitate and encourage disclosure of innovation into the public domain for the common good, by granting authors and inventors exclusive rights to exploit their works and invention for a limited period.

However, various schools of thought are critical of the very concept of intellectual property, and some characterise IP as intellectual protectionism. There is ongoing debate as to whether IP laws truly operate to confer the stated public benefits, and whether the protection they are said to provide is appropriate in the context of innovation derived from such things as traditional knowledge and folklore, and patents for software and business methods. Manifestations of this controversy can be seen in the way different jurisdictions decide whether to grant intellectual property protection in relation to subject matter of this kind, and the North-South divide on issues of the role and scope of intellectual property laws.

Chattel slavery

The living human body is, in most modern societies, considered something which cannot be the property of anyone but the person whose body it is. This is in contrast to chattel slavery. Chattel slavery is a type of slavery defined as the absolute legal ownership of a person or persons, including the legal right to buy and sell them. Persons who are enslaved do not have the freedom to direct their own actions, and their legal rights may be either severely limited or nonexistent. In most countries, chattel slaves were considered as movable property.

Slavery is currently illegal in every country around the world. However, up until the 19th century slavery and ownership of people had existed in one form or another in nearly every society on earth. Notwithstanding the illegality according to codes of law, slavery still exists in various forms today.[11]

Critical views

The question of ownership reaches back to the ancient philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, who held different opinions on the subject. Plato (428/427 BC – 348/347 BC) thought private property created divisive inequalities, while Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) thought private property enabled people to receive the full benefit of their labor. Private property can circumvent what is now referred to as the “tragedy of the commons” problem, where people tend to degrade common property more than they do private property. While Aristotle justified the existence of private ownership, he left open questions of (1) how to allocate property between what is private and common and (2) how to allocate the private property within society.[12]

Modern Western views

In modern Western popular culture some people believe that exclusive ownership of property underlies much social injustice, and facilitates tyranny and oppression on an individual and societal scale. Others consider the striving to achieve greater ownership of wealth as the driving factor behind human technological advancement and increasing standards of living. Right-libertarians not only believe that ownership is the driving factor behind human technological advancement and increasing standards of living, but is also necessary for liberty itself.

Ownership society

Ownership society was a political slogan used by United States President George W. Bush to promote a series of policies aimed to increase the control of individual citizens over health care and social security payments and policies. Critics have claimed that slogan hid an agenda that sought to implement tax cuts and curtail the government's role in health care and retirement saving.

See also


  1. ^ Theory of Moral Sentiments. Ed. A.L. Macfie and D.D. Raphael. Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1982, II.ii.2.3
  2. ^ Ammer & Ammer 1986, p. 379.
  3. ^ Scruton, Roger (2007-02-07). The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought. ISBN 9780230625099.
  4. ^ McConnell, Campbell; Brue, Stanley; Flynn, Sean (2009). Economics. Boston: Twayne Publishers. p. G-22. ISBN 978-0-07-337569-4.
  5. ^ Ammer, Christine; Ammer, Dean S. (1986). Dictionary of Business and Economics. Simon and Schuster. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-02-901480-6.
  6. ^ Collin, Peter Hodgson (1998). Dictionary of Business. ISBN 9781579580773.
  7. ^ Mitchell Miller, J (2014-04-07). The Encyclopedia of Theoretical Criminology. ISBN 9780470658444.
  8. ^ "Personal property". Sir Robert Harry Inglis Palgrave. Dictionary of political economy, Volume 3. 1908. p. 96
  9. ^ Scruton, Roger (2007). The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought (3rd ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 644–645. ISBN 978-1-4039-8951-2.
  10. ^ Bornstein, Marc H (2018-01-15). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Lifespan Human Development. ISBN 9781506353319.
  11. ^ "Slavery Today". BBC.
  12. ^ Politics 1263a8 15 as quoted in Mayhew 1995 p. 566
Common ownership

Common ownership refers to holding the assets of an organization, enterprise or community indivisibly rather than in the names of the individual members or groups of members as common property.

Forms of common ownership exist in every economic system. Common ownership of the means of production is a central goal of communist political movements as it is seen as a necessary democratic mechanism for the creation and continued function of a communist society. Advocates make a distinction between collective ownership and common property as the former refers to property owned jointly by agreement of a set of colleagues, such as producer cooperatives, whereas the latter refers to assets that are completely open for access, such as a public park freely available to everyone.


In political and social sciences, communism (from Latin communis, "common, universal") is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.Communism includes a variety of schools of thought, which broadly include Marxism and anarchism (anarcho-communism), as well as the political ideologies grouped around both. All of these share the analysis that the current order of society stems from its economic system, capitalism; that in this system there are two major social classes; that conflict between these two classes is the root of all problems in society; and that this situation will ultimately be resolved through a social revolution.

The two classes are the working class—who must work to survive and who make up the majority within society—and the capitalist class—a minority who derives profit from employing the working class through private ownership of the means of production.

The revolution will put the working class in power and in turn establish social ownership of the means of production, which according to this analysis is the primary element in the transformation of society towards communism.

Critics of communism can be roughly divided into those concerning themselves with the practical aspects of 20th century communist states and those concerning themselves with communist principles and theory.Marxism-Leninism and social democracy were the two dominant forms of socialism in the 20th century; social democracy advocates economic reform through gradual democratic legislative action rather than through revolution.


A condominium, often shortened to condo, in the United States and in most Canadian provinces, is a type of living space similar to an apartment but independently sellable and therefore regarded as real estate. The condominium building structure is divided into several units that are each separately owned, surrounded by common areas that are jointly owned. Similar concepts in other English-speaking countries include strata title in Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the Canadian province of British Columbia; commonhold in the United Kingdom; and sectional title in South Africa.Residential condominiums are frequently constructed as apartment buildings, but there has been an increase in the number of "detached condominiums", which look like single-family homes but in which the yards, building exteriors, and streets are jointly owned and jointly maintained by a community association.

Unlike apartments, which are leased by their tenants, condominium units are owned outright. Additionally, the owners of the individual units also collectively own the common areas of the property, such as hallways, walkways, laundry rooms, etc., as well as common utilities and amenities, such as the HVAC system, elevators, and so on. Many shopping malls are industrial condominiums in which the individual retail and office spaces are owned by the businesses that occupy them while the common areas of the mall are collectively owned by all the business entities that own the individual spaces.

The common areas, amenities, and utilities are managed collectively by the owners through their association, such as a homeowner association.

Scholars have traced the earliest known use of the condominium form of tenure to a document from first-century Babylon. The word condominium originated in Latin.

Italy uses condominio, which is simply the modern Italian form of condominium. Both condo and condominium are used colloquially in the Canadian province of Quebec, where the official term is divided co-ownership. In France, however, the term is simply copropriété ("co-property"), and the common areas of these properties are usually managed by a Syndicat de copropriété, or "co-property union" ("union" in the sense of "association").

Latin American nations often use the term propiedad horizontal, literally meaning "horizontal property" but abstractly meaning that all owners of the property have equal interest. The word condominio is also used. However, in Spain, the legal term is comunidad de propietarios and the popular term is comunidad de vecinos.


A cooperative (also known as co-operative, co-op, or coop) is "an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise". Cooperatives may include:

businesses owned and managed by the people who use their services (a consumer cooperative)

organizations managed by the people who work there (worker cooperatives)

multi-stakeholder or hybrid cooperatives that share ownership between different stakeholder groups. For example, care cooperatives where ownership is shared between both care-givers and receivers. Stakeholders might also include non-profits or investors.

second- and third-tier cooperatives whose members are other cooperatives

platform cooperatives that use a cooperatively owned and governed website, mobile app or a protocol to facilitate the sale of goods and services.Research published by the Worldwatch Institute found that in 2012 approximately one billion people in 96 countries had become members of at least one cooperative. The turnover of the largest three hundred cooperatives in the world reached $2.2 trillion.Cooperative businesses are typically more economically resilient than many other forms of enterprise, with twice the number of co-operatives (80%) surviving their first five years compared with other business ownership models (41%). Cooperatives frequently have social goals which they aim to accomplish by investing a proportion of trading profits back into their communities. As an example of this, in 2013, retail co-operatives in the UK invested 6.9% of their pre-tax profits in the communities in which they trade as compared with 2.4% for other rival supermarkets.Since 2002 cooperatives and credit unions could be distinguished on the Internet by use of a .coop domain. Since 2014, following International Cooperative Alliance's introduction of the Cooperative Marque, ICA cooperatives and WOCCU credit unions can also be identified by a coop ethical consumerism label.

Economic system

An economic system (also economic order) is a system of production, resource allocation and distribution of goods and services within a society or a given geographic area. It includes the combination of the various institutions, agencies, entities, decision-making processes and patterns of consumption that comprise the economic structure of a given community. As such, an economic system is a type of social system. The mode of production is a related concept. All economic systems have three basic questions to ask: what to produce, how to produce and in what quantities and who receives the output of production.

The study of economic systems includes how these various agencies and institutions are linked to one another, how information flows between them and the social relations within the system (including property rights and the structure of management). The analysis of economic systems traditionally focused on the dichotomies and comparisons between market economies and planned economies and on the distinctions between capitalism and socialism. Subsequently, the categorization of economic systems expanded to include other topics and models that do not conform to the traditional dichotomy. Today the dominant form of economic organization at the world level is based on market-oriented mixed economies.

Employee stock ownership plan

An employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) is an employee-owner program that provides a company's workforce with an ownership interest in the company. In an ESOP, companies provide their employees with stock ownership, often at upfront cost to the employees. ESOP shares, however, are part of employees' remuneration for work performed. Shares are allocated to employees and may be held in an ESOP trust until the employee retires or leaves the company. The shares are then either bought back by the company for redistribution or voided.

Some corporations are majority employee-owned; the term "employee-owned corporation" often refers to such companies. Such organizations are similar to worker cooperatives, but unlike cooperatives, control of the company's capital is not necessarily evenly distributed. In many cases, voting rights are given only to certain shareholders, and more senior employees may be allocated more shares than new hires; typically, they are tied to the compensation an employee receives from the company. Compared with cooperatives, ESOP-centered corporations often allow for company executives to have greater flexibility and control in governing and managing the corporation.

Most corporations, however, use stock ownership plans as a form of in-kind benefit, as a way to prevent hostile takeovers, or to maintain a specific corporate culture. The plans generally prevent average employees from holding too much of the company's stock.

According to The ESOP Association, a national trade association based in Washington, DC, The most common reason for establishing an ESOP is to buy stock from the owners of a closely held company. Many closely held companies have little or no succession plan in place. As a result, the day a founder or primary shareholder leaves the business often results in significant adverse consequences for the company, the employees, and the exiting owner. ESOPs offer transitional flexibility that can facilitate succession planning. Founders and main shareholders can sell to ESOPs all of their shares at one time, or percentages of their shares on the schedule of their choosing. The transition in leadership, therefore, can occur as quickly or slowly as the owner wishes.

Equity (finance)

In accounting, equity (or owner's equity) is the difference between the value of the assets and the value of the liabilities of something owned. It is governed by the following equation:

For example, if someone owns a car worth $15,000 (an asset), but owes $5,000 on a loan against that car (a liability), the car represents $10,000 of equity. Equity can be negative if liabilities exceed assets. Shareholders' equity (or stockholders' equity, shareholders' funds, shareholders' capital or similar terms) represents the equity of a company as divided among shareholders of common or preferred stock. Negative shareholders' equity is often referred to as a shareholders' deficit.

Alternatively, equity can also refer to a corporation's share capital (capital stock in American English). The value of the share capital depends on the corporation's future economic prospects. For a company in liquidation proceedings, the equity is that which remains after all liabilities have been paid.

FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati is a soccer club based in Cincinnati, Ohio that plays in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2019. The team succeeded the lower-division team of the same name and was announced on May 29, 2018, when MLS awarded an expansion franchise to Cincinnati. The club's ownership group is led by Carl H. Lindner III.

Land tenure

In common law systems, land tenure is the legal regime in which land is owned by an individual, who is said to "hold" the land. It determines who can use land, for how long, and under what conditions. Tenure may be based both on official laws and policies, and on informal customs. The French verb "tenir" means "to hold" and "tenant" is the present participle of "tenir". The sovereign monarch, known as The Crown, held land in its own right. All private owners are either its tenants or sub-tenants. Tenure signifies the relationship between tenant and lord, not the relationship between tenant and land. Over history, many different forms of land ownership, i.e., ways of owning land, have been established.

A landholder/landowner is a holder of the estate in land with considerable rights of ownership or, simply put, an owner of land.

Mixed economy

A mixed economy is variously defined as an economic system blending elements of market economies with elements of planned economies, free markets with state interventionism, or private enterprise with public enterprise. There is no single definition of a mixed economy, but rather two major definitions. The first of these definitions refers to a mixture of markets with state interventionism, referring to capitalist market economies with strong regulatory oversight, interventionist policies and governmental provision of public services. The second definition is apolitical in nature and strictly refers to an economy containing a mixture of private enterprise with public enterprise.In most cases, and particularly with reference to Western economies, the term "mixed economy" refers to a capitalist economy characterized by the predominance of private ownership of the means of production with profit-seeking enterprise and the accumulation of capital as its fundamental driving force. In such a system, markets are subject to varying degrees of regulatory control and governments wield indirect macroeconomic influence through fiscal and monetary policies with a view to counteracting capitalism's history of boom/bust cycles, unemployment and income disparities. In this framework, varying degrees of public utilities and essential services operate under public ownership and state activity is often limited to providing public goods and universal civic requirements - such as healthcare, physical infrastructure and management of public lands.In reference to post-war Western and Northern European economic models as championed by Christian democrats and social democrats, the mixed economy is a form of capitalism where most industries are privately owned with only a small number of public utilities and essential services under public ownership. In the post-war era, European social democracy became associated with this economic model, as evidenced by the implementation of the welfare state.As an economic ideal, mixed economies are supported by people of various political persuasions, typically centre-left and centre-right, such as social democrats or Christian democrats.


Nationalization (or nationalisation) is the process of transforming private assets into public assets by bringing them under the public ownership of a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets or assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being transferred to the state. The opposites of nationalization are privatization and demutualization. When previously nationalized assets are privatized and subsequently returned to public ownership at a later stage, they are said to have undergone renationalization. Industries that are usually subject to nationalization include transport, communications, energy, banking, and natural resources.

Nationalization may occur with or without compensation to the former owners. Nationalization is distinguished from property redistribution in that the government retains control of nationalized property. Some nationalizations take place when a government seizes property acquired illegally. For example, in 1945 the French government seized the car-makers Renault because its owners had collaborated with the Nazi occupiers of France.Nationalization is to be distinguished from "socialization", which refers to the process of restructuring the economic framework, organizational structure, and institutions of an economy on a socialist basis. By contrast, nationalization does not necessarily imply social ownership and the restructuring of the economic system. By itself, nationalization has nothing to do with socialism, having been historically carried out for various different purposes under a wide variety of different political systems and economic systems. However, nationalization is, in most cases, opposed by laissez faire capitalists as it is perceived as excessive government interference in, and control of, economic affairs of individual citizens.

Private property

Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which is owned by a state entity; and from collective (or cooperative) property, which is owned by a group of non-governmental entities. Private property can be either personal property (consumption goods) or capital goods. Private property is a legal concept defined and enforced by a country's political system.

Privately held company

A privately held company, private company, or close corporation is a business company owned either by non-governmental organizations or by a relatively small number of shareholders or company members which does not offer or trade its company stock (shares) to the general public on the stock market exchanges, but rather the company's stock is offered, owned and traded or exchanged privately or over-the-counter. More ambiguous terms for a privately held company are closely held corporation, unquoted company, and unlisted company.

Though less visible than their publicly traded counterparts, private companies have major importance in the world's economy. In 2008, the 441 largest private companies in the United States accounted for US$1,800,000,000,000 ($1.8 trillion) in revenues and employed 6.2 million people, according to Forbes. In 2005, using a substantially smaller pool size (22.7%) for comparison, the 339 companies on Forbes' survey of closely held U.S. businesses sold a trillion dollars' worth of goods and services (44%) and employed 4 million people. In 2004, the Forbes' count of privately held U.S. businesses with at least $1 billion in revenue was 305.


Property, in the abstract, is what belongs to or with something, whether as an attribute or as a component of said thing. In the context of this article, it is one or more components (rather than attributes), whether physical or incorporeal, of a person's estate; or so belonging to, as in being owned by, a person or jointly a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation or even a society. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property has the right to consume, alter, share, redefine, rent, mortgage, pawn, sell, exchange, transfer, give away or destroy it, or to exclude others from doing these things, as well as to perhaps abandon it; whereas regardless of the nature of the property, the owner thereof has the right to properly use it (as a durable, mean or factor, or whatever), or at the very least exclusively keep it.

In economics and political economy, there are three broad forms of property: private property, public property, and collective property (also called cooperative property).Property that jointly belongs to more than one party may be possessed or controlled thereby in very similar or very distinct ways, whether simply or complexly, whether equally or unequally. However, there is an expectation that each party's will (rather discretion) with regard to the property be clearly defined and unconditional, so as to distinguish ownership and easement from rent. The parties might expect their wills to be unanimous, or alternately every given one of them, when no opportunity for or possibility of dispute with any other of them exists, may expect his, her, its or their own will to be sufficient and absolute.

The Restatement (First) of Property defines property as anything, tangible or intangible whereby a legal relationship between persons and the state enforces a possessory interest or legal title in that thing. This mediating relationship between individual, property and state is called a property regime.In sociology and anthropology, property is often defined as a relationship between two or more individuals and an object, in which at least one of these individuals holds a bundle of rights over the object. The distinction between "collective property" and "private property" is regarded as a confusion since different individuals often hold differing rights over a single object.Important widely recognized types of property include real property (the combination of land and any improvements to or on the land), personal property (physical possessions belonging to a person), private property (property owned by legal persons, business entities or individual natural persons), public property (state owned or publicly owned and available possessions) and intellectual property (exclusive rights over artistic creations, inventions, etc.), although the last is not always as widely recognized or enforced. An article of property may have physical and incorporeal parts. A title, or a right of ownership, establishes the relation between the property and other persons, assuring the owner the right to dispose of the property as the owner sees fit.

Social ownership

Social ownership is any of various forms of ownership for the means of production in socialist economic systems, encompassing public ownership, employee ownership, cooperative ownership, citizen ownership of equity, common ownership and collective ownership. Historically social ownership implied that capital and factor markets would cease to exist under the assumption that market exchanges within the production process would be made redundant if capital goods were owned by a single entity or network of entities representing society, but the articulation of models of market socialism where factor markets are utilized for allocating capital goods between socially owned enterprises broadened the definition to include autonomous entities within a market economy. Social ownership of the means of production is the common defining characteristic of all the various forms of socialism.The two major forms of social ownership are society-wide public ownership and cooperative ownership. The distinction between these two forms lies in the distribution of the surplus product. With society-wide public ownership, the surplus is distributed to all members of the public through a social dividend, whereas with co-operative ownership the economic surplus of an enterprise is controlled by all the worker-members of that specific enterprise.The goal of social ownership is to eliminate the distinction between the class of private owners who are the recipients of passive property income and workers who are the recipients of labor income (wages, salaries and commissions), so that the surplus product (or economic profits in the case of market socialism) belong either to society as a whole or to the members of a given enterprise. Social ownership would enable productivity gains from labor automation to progressively reduce the average length of the working day instead of creating job insecurity and unemployment. Reduction of necessary work time is central to the Marxist concept of human freedom and overcoming alienation, a concept widely shared by Marxist and non-Marxist socialists alike.The term "socialization" refers to the process of restructuring the economic framework, organizational structure and institutions of an economy on a socialist basis. The comprehensive notion of socialization and the public ownership form of social ownership implies an end to the operation of the laws of capitalism, capital accumulation and the use of money and financial valuation in the production process, along with a restructuring of workplace-level organization.


Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.Socialist systems are divided into non-market and market forms. Non-market socialism involves the substitution of factor markets and money with engineering and technical criteria based on calculation performed in-kind, thereby producing an economic mechanism that functions according to different economic laws from those of capitalism. Non-market socialism aims to circumvent the inefficiencies and crises traditionally associated with capital accumulation and the profit system. By contrast, market socialism retains the use of monetary prices, factor markets and in some cases the profit motive, with respect to the operation of socially owned enterprises and the allocation of capital goods between them. Profits generated by these firms would be controlled directly by the workforce of each firm, or accrue to society at large in the form of a social dividend. The socialist calculation debate concerns the feasibility and methods of resource allocation for a socialist system.

Socialist politics has been both internationalist and nationalist in orientation; organised through political parties and opposed to party politics; at times overlapping with trade unions, and at other times independent and critical of unions; and present in both industrialised and developing nations. Originating within the socialist movement, social democracy has embraced a mixed economy with a market that includes substantial state intervention in the form of income redistribution, regulation, and a welfare state. Economic democracy proposes a sort of market socialism where there is more decentralized control of companies, currencies, investments, and natural resources.

The socialist political movement includes a set of political philosophies that originated in the revolutionary movements of the mid-to-late 18th century and out of concern for the social problems that were associated with capitalism. By the late 19th century, after the work of Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels, socialism had come to signify opposition to capitalism and advocacy for a post-capitalist system based on some form of social ownership of the means of production. By the 1920s, social democracy and communism had become the two dominant political tendencies within the international socialist movement. By this time, socialism emerged as "the most influential secular movement of the twentieth century, worldwide. It is a political ideology (or world view), a wide and divided political movement" and while the emergence of the Soviet Union as the world's first nominally socialist state led to socialism's widespread association with the Soviet economic model, some economists and intellectuals argued that in practice the model functioned as a form of state capitalism or a non-planned administrative or command economy. Socialist parties and ideas remain a political force with varying degrees of power and influence on all continents, heading national governments in many countries around the world. Today, some socialists have also adopted the causes of other social movements, such as environmentalism, feminism and progressivism. In 21st century America, the term socialism, without clear definition, has become a pejorative used by conservatives to taint liberal and progressive policies, proposals, and public figures.

State-owned enterprise

A state-owned enterprise (SOE) is a business enterprise where the government or state has significant control through full, majority, or significant minority ownership. Defining characteristics of SOEs are their distinct legal form and operation in commercial affairs and activities. While they may also have public policy objectives (e.g., a state railway company may aim to make transportation more accessible), SOEs should be differentiated from government agencies or state entities established to pursue purely nonfinancial objectives.

State ownership

State ownership (also called public ownership and government ownership) is the ownership of an industry, asset, or enterprise by the state or a public body representing a community as opposed to an individual or private party. Public ownership specifically refers to industries selling goods and services to consumers and differs from public goods and government services financed out of a government’s general budget. Public ownership can take place at the national, regional, local, or municipal levels of government; or can refer to non-governmental public ownership vested in autonomous public enterprises. Public ownership is one of the three major forms of property ownership, differentiated from private, collective/cooperative, and common ownership.In market-based economies, state-owned assets are often managed and operated as joint-stock corporations with a government owning all or a controlling stake of the company's shares. This form is often referred to as a state-owned enterprise. A state-owned enterprise might variously operate as a not-for-profit corporation, as it may not be required to generate a profit; as a commercial enterprise in competitive sectors; or as a natural monopoly. Governments may also use the profitable entities they own to support the general budget. The creation of a state-owned enterprise from other forms of public property is called corporatization.

In Soviet-type economies, state property was the dominant form of industry as property. The state held a monopoly on land and natural resources, and enterprises operated under the legal framework of a nominally planned economy, and thus according to different criteria than enterprises in market and mixed economies.

Nationalization process of transferring private or municipal assets to a central government or state entity. Municipalization is the process of transferring private or state assets to a municipal government.


The stock (also capital stock) of a corporation is all of the shares into which ownership of the corporation is divided. In American English, the shares are commonly known as "stocks." A single share of the stock represents fractional ownership of the corporation in proportion to the total number of shares. This typically entitles the stockholder to that fraction of the company's earnings, proceeds from liquidation of assets (after discharge of all senior claims such as secured and unsecured debt), or voting power, often dividing these up in proportion to the amount of money each stockholder has invested. Not all stock is necessarily equal, as certain classes of stock may be issued for example without voting rights, with enhanced voting rights, or with a certain priority to receive profits or liquidation proceeds before or after other classes of shareholders.

Stock can be bought and sold privately or on stock exchanges, and such transactions are typically heavily regulated by governments to prevent fraud, protect investors, and benefit the larger economy. As new shares are issued by a company, the ownership and rights of existing shareholders are diluted in return for cash to sustain or grow the business. Companies can also buy back stock, which often lets investors recoup the initial investment plus capital gains from subsequent rises in stock price. Stock options, issued by many companies as part of employee compensation, do not represent ownership, but represent the right to buy ownership at a future time at a specified price. This would represent a windfall to the employees if the option is exercised when the market price is higher than the promised price, since if they immediately sold the stock they would keep the difference (minus taxes).

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