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Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental legal entities.[1] 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.[2] Certain political philosophies such as anarchism and socialism make a distinction between private and personal property[3] while others blend the two together.[4] Private property is a legal concept defined and enforced by a country's political system.[5]

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22]

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.[23] Weyl and Posner argue that private property is another name for monopoly and can hamper allocative efficiency. Through 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.[24]

See also