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Role of Government in Property

2. What is the role of government with regard to individual ownership of property?

The government establishes laws concerning property. More specifically, ownership of property depends upon legal recognition of ownership rights. The government establishes and enforces property ownership rights through a formalized system for recording and disclosure that puts others on notice of those rights. Without government recognition and enforcement of property rights, ownership rights would be synonymous with possession or control of the property. Those capable of obtaining and maintaining possession or control through any means (such as force or coercion) would own all available property.

•    Discussion: Do you agree that an individual only has ownership in something to the extent that the government (the law) recognizes that individual’s rights? Are you concerned by any requirements that the government puts in place to establish ownership?

•    Practice Question: Gordon enters into a verbal agreement to purchase land from Wynona. He pays for the land and takes possession of it. Gordon and Wynona never execute a deed or otherwise title the land with Gordon. When Wynona passes away, her children claim ownership of the land. Who likely has legal ownership of the land and what is the role of government in establishing and recognizing ownership?

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