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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 is foundational to capitalism, an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production. The distinction between private and personal property varies depending on political philosophy, with socialist perspectives making a hard distinction between the two. As a legal concept, private property is defined and enforced by a country's political system.
Ideas about and discussion of private property date back to the Persian Empire, and emerge in the Western tradition at least as far back as Plato.Prior to the 18th century, English speakers generally used the word "property" in reference to land ownership. In England, "property" came to have a legal definition in the 17th century. Private property defined as property owned by commercial entities emerged with the great European trading companies of the 17th century.
The issue of the enclosure of agricultural land in England, especially as debated in the 17th and 18th centuries, accompanied efforts in philosophy and political thought—by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), James Harrington (1611–1677) and John Locke (1632–1704), for example—to address the phenomenon of property ownership.
In arguing against supporters of absolute monarchy, John Locke conceptualized property as a "natural right" that God had not bestowed exclusively on the monarchy; the labour theory of property. This stated that property is a natural result of labor improving upon nature; and thus by virtue of labor expenditure, the laborer becomes entitled to its produce.
Influenced by the rise of mercantilism, Locke argued that private property was antecedent to and thus independent of government. Locke distinguished between "common property", by which he meant common land, and property in consumer goods and producer-goods. His chief argument for property in land ownership was that it led to improved land management and cultivation over common land.
In the 18th century, during the Industrial Revolution, the moral philosopher and economist Adam Smith (1723–1790), in contrast to Locke, drew a distinction between the "right to property" as an acquired right, and natural rights. Smith confined natural rights to "liberty and life". Smith also drew attention to the relationship between employee and employer and identified that property and civil government were dependent upon each other, recognizing that "the state of property must always vary with the form of government". Smith further argued that civil government could not exist without property, as government's main function was to define and safeguard property ownership.
In the 19th century, the economist and philosopher Karl Marx (1818–1883) provided an influential analysis of the development and history of property formations and their relationship to the technical productive forces of a given period. Marx's conception of private property has proven influential for many subsequent economic theories and for communist, socialist and anarchist, political movements, and led to the widespread association of private property—particularly private property in the means of production—with capitalism.
Private property is a legal concept defined and enforced by a country's political system.The area of law that deals with the subject is called property law. The enforcement of property law concerning private property is a matter of public expense.
Defence of property is a common method of justification used by defendants who argue that they should not be held liable for any loss and injury that they have caused because they were acting to protect their property. Courts have generally ruled that the use of force may be acceptable.
In many political systems, the government requests that owners pay for the privilege of ownership. A property tax is an ad valorem tax on the value of a property, usually levied on real estate. The tax is levied by the governing authority of the jurisdiction in which the property is located. It may be imposed annually or at the time of a real estate transaction, such as in real estate transfer tax. Under a property-tax system, the government requires or performs an appraisal of the monetary value of each property, and tax is assessed in proportion to that value. The four broad types of property taxes are land, improvements to land (immovable man-made objects, such as buildings), personal property (movable man-made objects) and intangible property.
The social and political context in which private property is administered will determine the extent to which an owner will be able to exercise rights over the same. The rights to private property often come with limitations. For example, local government may enforce rules about what kind of building may be built on private land (building code), or whether a historical building may be demolished or not. Theft is common in many societies, and the extent to which central administration will pursue property crime varies enormously.
Some forms of private property are uniquely identifiable, and may be described in a title or a certificate of ownership.
The rights to a property may be transferred from one "owner" to another. A transfer tax is a tax on the passing of title to property from one person (or entity) to another. An owner may request that, after death, private property be transferred to family members, through inheritance.
In certain cases ownership may be lost to the public interest. Private real estate may be confiscated or used for public purposes, for example to build a road.
The legal framework of a country or society defines some of the practical implications of private property. There are no expectations that these rules will define a rational and consistent model of economics or social system.
Although contemporary neoclassical economics—currently the dominant school of economics—rejects some of the assumptions of the early philosophers underpinning classical economics, it has been argued that neoclassical economics continues to be influenced by the legacy of natural moral theory and the concept of natural rights, which has led to the presentation of private market exchange and private property rights as "natural rights" inherent in nature.
Economic liberals (defined as those who support a private sector-driven market economy) consider private property to be essential for the construction of a prosperous society. They believe private ownership of land ensures the land will be put to productive use and its value protected by the landowner. If the owners must pay property taxes, this forces the owners to maintain a productive output from the land to keep taxes current. Private property also attaches a monetary value to land, which can be used to trade or as collateral. Private property thus is an important part of capitalization within the economy.
Socialist economists are critical of private property as socialism aims to substitute private property in the means of production for social ownership or public property. Socialists generally argue that private property relations limit the potential of the productive forces in the economy when productive activity becomes a collective activity, where the role of the capitalist becomes redundant (as a passive owner). Socialists generally favor social ownership either to eliminate the class distinctions between owners and workers and as a component of the development of a post-capitalist economic system.
In response to the socialist critique, the Austrian School economist Ludwig Von Mises argued that private property rights are a requisite for what he called "rational" economic calculation and that the prices of goods and services cannot be determined accurately enough to make efficient economic calculation without having clearly defined private-property rights. Mises argued that a socialist system, which by definition would lack private property in the factors of production, would be unable to determine appropriate price valuations for the factors of production. According to Mises, this problem would make rational socialist calculation impossible.
In capitalism, ownership can be viewed as a “bundle of rights" over an asset that entitles its holder to a strong form of authority over it. Such bundle is composed of a set of rights that allows the owner of the asset to control it and decide on its use, claim the value generated by it, exclude others from using it and the right to transfer the ownership (set of rights over the asset) of it to another holder.
In Marxian economics and socialist politics, there is distinction between "private property" and "personal property". The former is defined as the means of production in reference to private ownership over an economic enterprise based on socialized production and wage labor whereas the latter is defined as consumer goods or goods produced by an individual.Prior to the 18th century, private property usually referred to land ownership.
Private property in the means of production is the central element of capitalism criticized by socialists. In Marxist literature, private property refers to a social relationship in which the property owner takes possession of anything that another person or group produces with that property and capitalism depends on private property.The socialist critique of private ownership is heavily influenced by the Marxist analysis of capitalist property forms as part of its broader critique of alienation and exploitation in capitalism. Although there is considerable disagreement among socialists about the validity of certain aspects of Marxist analysis, the majority of socialists are sympathetic to Marx's views on exploitation and alienation.
Socialists critique the private appropriation of property income on the grounds that because such income does not correspond to a return on any productive activity and is generated by the working class, it represents exploitation. The property-owning (capitalist) class lives off passive property income produced by the working population by virtue of their claim to ownership in the form of stock or private equity. This exploitative arrangement is perpetuated due to the structure of capitalist society. Capitalism is regarded as a class system akin to historical class systems like slavery and feudalism.
Private ownership has also been criticized on non-Marxist ethical grounds by advocates of market socialism. According to the economist James Yunker, the ethical case for market socialism is that because passive property income requires no mental or physical exertion on the part of the recipient and its appropriation by a small group of private owners is the source of the vast inequalities in contemporary capitalism, social ownership in a market economy would resolve the major cause of social inequality and its accompanying social ills.Weyl and Posner argue that private property is another name for monopoly and can hamper allocative efficiency. Through the use of taxation and modified Vickrey auctions, they argue that partial common property ownership is a more efficient and just way to organize the economy.
The justifications for private property rights have also been critiqued as tools of empire which enable land appropriation.According to academic commentator Brenna Bhandar, the language implemented in property legislation dictates colonized peoples as unable to effectively own and utilize their own land. It is suggested that personal rights are interchangeable with property rights, that therefore communities which utilize communal methods of land ownership are not equally validated by private property ideals.
It is also argued by critical race theorist Cheryl Harris that race and property rights have been conflated over time, with only those qualities unique to white settlement recognized legally.Indigenous use of land, focusing on common ownership, is distinguished from private property ownership and western understandings of land law.
Anarcho-capitalism is a political philosophy that advocates the abolition of centralized states in favor of a system of private property enforced by private agencies, free markets and the right-libertarian interpretation of self-ownership, which extends the concept to include control of private property as part of the self. In the absence of statute, anarcho-capitalists hold that society tends to contractually self-regulate and civilize through participation in the free market which they describe as a voluntary society. In a theoretical anarcho-capitalist society, the system of private property would still exist and be enforced by private defense agencies and/or insurance companies selected by customers which would operate competitively in a market and fulfill the roles of courts and the police.
Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, price system, private property, property rights recognition, voluntary exchange, and wage labor. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investments are determined by owners of wealth, property, or ability to maneuver capital or production ability in capital and financial markets—whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.
In economics, a free market is a system in which the prices for goods and services are self-regulated by buyers and sellers negotiating in an open market without market coercions. In a free market, the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government or other authority other than those interventions which are made to prohibit market coercions. Examples of such prohibited market coercions include: economic privilege, monopolies, and artificial scarcities. Proponents of the concept of free market contrast it with a regulated market in which a government intervenes in the exchange of property for any reason other than reducing market coercions.
Anti-capitalism is a political ideology and movement encompassing a variety of attitudes and ideas that oppose capitalism. In this sense, anti-capitalists are those who wish to replace capitalism with another type of economic system, like socialism and communism.
The means of production is a term which can encompass anything which can be used to produce products ; however, it can also be used with narrower meanings, such as anything that is used to produce products. It can also be used as an abbreviation of the "means of production and distribution" which additionally includes the logistical distribution and delivery of products, generally through distributors, or as an abbreviation of the "means of production, distribution, and exchange" which further includes the exchange of distributed products, generally to consumers. The means of production can refer to both tangible aspects, such as physical raw materials, tools, or labor, and non-tangible aspects such as domestic labor or knowledge that contributes to production.
An economic system, or 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.
Anarchist economics is the set of theories and practices of economic activity within the political philosophy of anarchism. Many anarchists are anti-authoritarian anti-capitalists, with anarchism usually referred to as a form of libertarian socialism, i.e. a stateless system of socialism. Anarchists support personal property and oppose capital concentration, interest, monopoly, private ownership of productive property such as the means of production, profit, rent, usury and wage slavery which are viewed as inherent to capitalism.
A theory of capitalism describes the essential features of capitalism and how it functions. The history of various such theories is the subject of this article.
Mutualism is an anarchist school of thought and economic theory that advocates a socialist society based on free markets and usufructs, i.e. occupation and use property norms. One implementation of this system involves the establishment of a mutual-credit bank that would lend to producers at a minimal interest rate, just high enough to cover administration. Mutualism is based on a version of the labor theory of value which it uses as its basis for determining economic value. According to mutualist theory, when a worker sells the product of their labor, they ought to receive money, goods, or services in exchange that are equal in economic value, embodying "the amount of labor necessary to produce an article of exactly similar and equal utility". The product of the worker's labor factors the amount of both mental and physical labor into the price of their product.
Unearned income is a term coined by Henry George to refer to income gained through ownership of land and other monopoly. Today the term often refers to income received by virtue of owning property, inheritance, pensions and payments received from public welfare. The three major forms of unearned income based on property ownership are rent, received from the ownership of natural resources; interest, received by virtue of owning financial assets; and profit, received from the ownership of capital equipment. As such, unearned income is often categorized as "passive income".
Criticism of capitalism ranges from expressing disagreement with the principles of capitalism in its entirety to expressing disagreement with particular outcomes of capitalism.
Property income refers to profit or income received by virtue of owning property. The three forms of property income are rent, received from the ownership of natural resources; interest, received by virtue of owning financial assets; and profit, received from the ownership of capital equipment. As such, property income is a subset of unearned income and is often classified as passive income.
The social dividend is the return on the capital assets and natural resources owned by society in a socialist economy. The concept notably appears as a key characteristic of market socialism, where it takes the form of a dividend payment to each citizen derived from the property income generated by publicly owned enterprises, representing the individual's share of the capital and natural resources owned by society.
Economic democracy is a socioeconomic philosophy that proposes to shift decision-making power from corporate managers and corporate shareholders to a larger group of public stakeholders that includes workers, customers, suppliers, neighbours and the broader public. No single definition or approach encompasses economic democracy, but most proponents claim that modern property relations externalize costs, subordinate the general well-being to private profit and deny the polity a democratic voice in economic policy decisions. In addition to these moral concerns, economic democracy makes practical claims, such as that it can compensate for capitalism's inherent effective demand gap.
Exploitation of labour is a concept defined as, in its broadest sense, one agent taking unfair advantage of another agent. It denotes an unjust social relationship based on an asymmetry of power or unequal exchange of value between workers and their employers. When speaking about exploitation, there is a direct affiliation with consumption in social theory and traditionally this would label exploitation as unfairly taking advantage of another person because of their inferior position, giving the exploiter the power.
In Karl Marx's critique of political economy and subsequent Marxian analyses, the capitalist mode of production refers to the systems of organizing production and distribution within capitalist societies. Private money-making in various forms preceded the development of the capitalist mode of production as such. The capitalist mode of production proper, based on wage-labour and private ownership of the means of production and on industrial technology, began to grow rapidly in Western Europe from the Industrial Revolution, later extending to most of the world.
Social ownership is the appropriation of the surplus product, produced by the means of production, to society as a whole. It is the defining characteristic of a socialist economic system. It can take the form of community ownership, state ownership, common ownership, employee ownership, cooperative ownership, and citizen ownership of equity. Traditionally, 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 and integrated 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.
Market socialism is a type of economic system involving the public, cooperative, or social ownership of the means of production in the framework of a market economy, or one that contains a mix of worker-owned, nationalized, and privately owned enterprises. The central idea is that, as in capitalism, businesses compete for profits, however they will be "owned, or at least governed," by those who work in them. Market socialism differs from non-market socialism in that the market mechanism is utilized for the allocation of capital goods and the means of production. Depending on the specific model of market socialism, profits generated by socially owned firms may variously be used to directly remunerate employees, accrue to society at large as the source of public finance, or be distributed amongst the population in a social dividend.
Socialist economics comprises the economic theories, practices and norms of hypothetical and existing socialist economic systems. A socialist economic system is characterized by social ownership and operation of the means of production that may take the form of autonomous cooperatives or direct public ownership wherein production is carried out directly for use rather than for profit. Socialist systems that utilize markets for allocating capital goods and factors of production among economic units are designated market socialism. When planning is utilized, the economic system is designated as a socialist planned economy. Non-market forms of socialism usually include a system of accounting based on calculation-in-kind to value resources and goods.
The proletariat is the social class of wage-earners, those members of a society whose only possession of significant economic value is their labour power. A member of such a class is a proletarian. Marxist philosophy considers the proletariat to be exploited under capitalism, forced to accept meager wages in return for operating the means of production, which belong to the class of business owners, the bourgeoisie.
There are three broad forms of property ownership – private, public, and collective (cooperative).
Private property cannot exist without a political system that defines its existence, its use, and the conditions of its exchange. That is, private property is defined and exists only because of politics.
The defence of private property has been a feature of philosophical, theological and legal discourse from antiquity to the present day. [...] I begin with Plato's thoughts on property in the Republic [...].
Oliver Letwin, a British conservative theorist, observed that the private sector had to be invented. This occurred with the great European trading companies, such as the British and Dutch East India companies, founded in the 17th century. Notions of property before the Renaissance assumed that different actors had different relations to the same property.
[D]ebates [on enclosure] […] laid down many of the basic terms for political debate about private property, and especially property in land.
The derivation of natural moral theory has provided the foundation for the use of economic theory to support specific ideological viewpoints. The main strength of the legitimating role of economic theory is that it allows one set of ideological viewpoints to posture as if their conclusions were unbiased scientific conclusions, while those opposing them were merely expressing their value laden opinions. At its apex, this tendency has justified laissez-faire economic policies as if they were based on natural laws. Always behind the legitimization activities of economists is the belief that markets are ‘natural’ institutions and market outcomes are natural outcomes, and the institutions necessary for markets, such as private property rights, are ‘natural rights’.
Though socialists have disagreed with Marx about how to conceptualize the notion of class, about the dynamics of class societies, and indeed about a whole host of other matters, most socialists seem to be broadly sympathetic to his views about what is wrong with the capitalist (free enterprise) economic system and, by implication, capitalist society ... Marx’s critique attributes basically two systemic evils to capitalism’s economic system: alienation and exploitation.
Property income is, by definition, received by virtue of owning property ... Since such income is not an equivalent return for any productive activity, it amounts to an entitlement to a portion of the aggregate output of others’ productive activity. The workforce produces output, but surrenders part of it to people who have nothing directly to do with production. Arguably, this occurs by virtue of a social system to which those in the workforce have never given their full consent, i.e. that of private property. Alternatively, it occurs by virtue of a structure of power to which the workforce is subject: property income is the fruit of exploitation. The fact that it is essential to capitalism makes the latter a class system akin to such other historical cases as slavery and feudalism.
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