Saturday, October 20, 2007

For ownership of articles in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Ownership of articles.
Owner Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be an object, land/real estate, intellectual property or some other kind of property. It is embodied in an ownership right also referred to as title.
Ownership is the key building block in the development of the capitalist socio-economic system. The concept of ownership has existed for thousands of years and in all cultures. Over the millennia, however, and across cultures what is considered eligible to be property and how that property is regarded culturally is very different. 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.
The process and mechanics of ownership are fairly complex since 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 and seizure. Ownership is self-propagating in that if an object is owned by someone, any additional goods produced by using that object will also be owned by the same person. If one finds an object, one can legitimately take ownership of that object as long as no one claims to have previously lost that object. Some jurisdictions place time restraints on finding lost property before that property becomes fair game for anyone to claim ownership of once found. Such is the case of the gold found in the sunken SS Republic. The SS Republic steamship sank off the coast of Georgia in 1865 and lost thousands of gold coins and bars to the ocean. In 2003 Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. discovered the ship and was awarded possession of the gold after the insurance company that had paid off damages to the original owners claimed they were the rightful owners of the gold.

Types of owners
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 daughter. In most societies both men and women can own property with no restrictions.

In person
Throughout history, nations (or governments) and religions 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, 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.

Structured Ownership Entities
Ownership implies responsibility, 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 others' 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.

Liability for the Group or for Others in the Group
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.
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 New York City is a form of real estate ownership known as a cooperative (also co-operative or co-op) 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 Gains
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 overexploitation, are distributed among many, and are only visible to these gradually.
In an ideal 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.

Sharing Use

Types of ownership

Main article: Personal property Personal property

Main article: Real estate Land ownership
An individual or group of individuals can own corporations and other legal entities. 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 companies and entities are owned privately by the individuals who registered them with the government while other companies are owned publicly.
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, and cooperatives 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.
A a publicly listed company, known as a public company, is owned by any member of the public who wishes to purchase stock in that company rather than by a relatively few individuals. A company that is owned by stockholders who are members of the general public and trade shares publicly, often through a listing on a stock exchange. Ownership is open to anyone who has the money and inclination to buy shares in the company. Owners, however, are generally classified in three groups. Those with 5% Ownerships of the stock usually hold significant sway over the company. Mutual Funds and regular institutions can also own the stock; if they own enough, can are considered as part of the 5% ownership category. They usually are differentiated from privately held companies where the shares are held by a small group of individuals often members of one or a small group of families or otherwise related individuals (or other companies). For a discussion of the British and Irish variant of this type of company, see public limited company.

Corporations and legal entities

Main article: Intellectual property Intellectual property

Main article: Chattel slavery Chattel slavery
In modern Western popular culture some people (principally among the extreme political left) believe that exclusive ownership of property underlies much social injustice, and facilitates tyranny and oppression on an individual and societal scale. Others (principally among the political right and political center) consider the striving to achieve greater ownership of wealth as the driving factor behind human technological advancement and increasing standards of living.

Owner Social Views of Ownership
Ownership society is a slogan for a model of society promoted by United States President George W. Bush. It takes as lead values personal responsibility, economic liberty, and the owning of property. The ownership society discussed by Bush also extends to certain proposals of specific models of health care and social security. Critics have claimed that Bush's agenda for an ownership society also includes extending tax cuts, allowing wealthy Americans to shelter income from tax, and using the tax code to curtail the government's role in health care and retirement saving. Some say that the ultimate purpose of these proposals is the abolition of the graduated income tax, a progressive tax, and its replacement with a structurally simpler flat tax.

Ownership society