Ownership of property may be private, collective, or common and the property may be objects, land/real estate or intellectual property. Determining ownership in law involves determining who has certain rights and duties over the property. These rights and duties, sometimes called a 'bundle of rights', can be separated and held by different parties.
The question of ownership reaches back to the ancient philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, who held different opinions on the subject. Plato (428/427BC-348/347BC) thought private property created divisive inequalities, while Aristotle (384BC-322BC) thought private property enabled people to receive the full benefit of their labor. Private property also circumvents 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.
Over the millennia, and across cultures what can be property and how it is regarded 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.
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, receive it as a gift, steal it, find it, 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, being robbed of it, 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.
Famous quotes containing the word ownership:
“They had their fortunes to make, everything to gain and nothing to lose. They were schooled in and anxious for debates; forcible in argument; reckless and brilliant. For them it was but a short and natural step from swaying juries in courtroom battles over the ownership of land to swaying constituents in contests for office. For the lawyer, oratory was the escalator that could lift a political candidate to higher ground.”
—Federal Writers Project Of The Wor, U.S. public relief program (1935-1943)