"Private" and "Public" are Misleading Terms

This is a response to the following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b9qGxjjAP8 

Hello Luke 

I share your frustration with the definitional chaos surrounding these words. In many ways the meanings typically attached to the terms public and private property are juxtuposed. The word public would seem to imply that the property in question is under the control of the actual public, which would be the citezenry. The word private would seem to imply exclusivity. What is commonly called public property, however, is under the direct control of the state rather then the public. So the fact that it is labeled as being public property is very misleading and disingenous. In contemporary terminology, the term public property is an obfuscation of what should be called state property.

In reality, those who constitute the state, in conjunction with a small amount of wealthy elites from the public who are in patronage with the state, directly and exclusively control what is called public property. If the actual public were truly in control of it, they would be able to directly determine how their portion of it is used as individual or sell their portion of it. Instead, they are taxed to maintain the exclusive control over the property by bereaucrats. The public does not directly determine how the property in question is used. They are denied the true implications of ownership over it, despite being the ones who bear the cost for its maintainence.

Private property, in my understanding, would be property that is owned and controled by private individuals, in contrast to being in the control of the state. The public is merely the sum total of private individuals. So in a quite literal sense private property is the only true public property in that it is actually under the ownership of the public. To truly "privatize" would be to transfer ownership to the public. True public ownership of the means of production, as in ownership by private individuals constituting the public, would inherently require the removal of state ownership of the means of production. However, there is a significant difference between genuine "privatization" and the bulk of what passes as "privatization" today. What usually passes as "privatization" today is merely the transferance of ownership and the granting of privilege and protection to a monopoly, to institutions that already are in collusion with the state to begin with.

Institutions such as corporations and central banks are chartered into existance by states and granted special legal privileges and protections. So-called private institutions that are in patronage with the state and that are granted the privilege of externalizing their costs onto members of the public are no longer independant. They may be viewed as extensions of the government. While to some extent they may still be under the control of certain private individuals, usually a very exclusive group, that control was granted to them by the state. They are dependant on the state for their existance and often the state is one of their main customers. This is especially true in the case of military industry, hence the term "military-industrial-complex". And of course central banks function as a mechanism of state policy. They enjoy immense macro-economic control that was granted to them by the state, a monopoly on the money supply.

In order for an institution to truly be "private" in the sense of being independant and in accordance with the principle of free association, all connections between that institution and the state have to be severed. If there is even the slightest symbiotic relationship between an institution and the state, and if an institution's very existance is that of a legal entity based on some kind of charter or protection, it cannot be considered fully "private". Unfortunately, due to the definitional confusion in public discourse, this fusion between state and private power is blamed entirely on "private" sphere and a non-existant free market. The state's role in the existance, maintainance and protection of such institutions is obfuscated. Unfortunately people like Noam Chomsky have a tendency to repeatedly conflate the distinction between laissez-faire and the fusionist corporatism that currently exists.

So those are some of my thoughts on this. I hope I haven't created more confusion then before.

Published Tue, Mar 4 2008 3:23 PM by Brainpolice


# abc wt said on 29 March, 2008 12:18 PM

Obviously, private entities are not entirely private because government protect them using public defence, patents, copyrights, licenses, certifications, etc., etc., etc.

# Brainpolice said on 30 March, 2008 07:48 AM

Right. As well as the fact that many current private property titles are "legal" titles that are in fact in opposition to the neo-lockean or rothbardian justification for property.

# Brainpolice said on 04 April, 2008 05:42 PM

What exactly does it mean to "privatize" a service or industry? As I have argued before , there

# Mabsprerianes said on 06 April, 2008 03:44 AM

What would have been the course of the SS privatization debate,-especially SS-national savings-equity premium nexus, if this had been the standard all along?

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