Property – anything you own
Ownership – possession of property
Obviously property and ownership are dependant on the each other
Often people will point to the value of property, or the existence of legal documents defining property as the key defining factors.
Some of my most valuable property includes photos of my children, or artwork they created when they were very young, it really has no monetary value, no legal documentation of ownership but it is definitely ‘mine’.
Obviously a good definition of property must include things that have no monetary value or legal documentation.
Does property have to be a physical good? The artwork and photos I described would certainly be considered ‘tangible’ goods.
Other valuable property would be ‘money’ – money is something that is easy to understand – we can touch it, feel it, it states right on it how much it is worth. Money is easy to define as ‘property’. What about the money we have in a bank account? That money isn’t really sitting there in a vault, it is really just a notation on an account….an agreement that if we walk into the bank and ask for that money, the bank will go out and find bits of paper that add up to that amount. Money is, for the most part, an example of intangible property. As much as we may dislike the mad scramble to get more money, I doubt many people would desire a world where there was no ownership of money.
Perhaps the idea of property could be defined by the physical ability to control it? A car for example is protected by locks – we can control the car because we have a key.
I have a friend who works for an insurance company assessing the effectivness of those locks. His job is basically to ‘steal’ cars all day long. He can open and start just about any car in seconds – locks are completely ineffective against his knowledge. Does this mean that he ‘owns’ every car? Does this in any way diminish my ownership of my car?
If you own land you have control over who can access the land – easy to do for a small tract, but next to impossible for a large area. What about people who simply walk over your land – very hard to control that, technically as the owner you should be able to but the reality is not so.
I have come to the conclusion that the fundamental element defining property and ownership is the recognition of others that any thing is ‘owned’ by someone. My property is mine because everyone else acknowledges and accepts that it is mine.
For a more thorough description of property, have a look at wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property