Property Rights: Private vs. Public

Private Property versus Public Property

A part of the debate centers around how much control government has over private property. The question involves the line of separation between public property, private property, and private property open to the public.

Public property is owned by the government, whether that be a local, county, state or the federal government. These properties include, but are not necessarily limited to, government office buildings, parks and other public areas, and some portions of infrastructure such as roadways.

Since government owns these properties, government plays a direct role in determining what is or is not permitted on these properties. Restrictions on types of vehicles, or the speed of vehicles, on a public roadway is legitimately maintained by the government, as they are responsible for those roadways. Likewise, preventing people from digging holes in a public park is also within the rights of government, as the property owner.

Public property must cater to as many citizens as possible, as the tax dollars used to fund government-owned properties generally come from everyone. Additionally, there are times when one must use government facilities, such as registering a vehicle, renewing a driver's license, or obtaining records.

By contrast, private property is owned by an individual, or by a group of individuals in the form of a corporation. Because the property is owned by an individual or a corporation, the owner(s) have the right to control how their property is used.

Even if one is invited to go to a park, they do not have the right to change the landscaping. Likewise, if one is invited onto property owned by another individual or corporation, the invitee does not have the right to dictate the actions of that owner on their property.

A private property owner, even if that property is open to the public, has the right to decide what activities take place on their property. If you are invited to someone's home, you do not have the right to destroy that other person's home, or engage in any other behavior which offends the property owner. Likewise, if you are invited into a business as a customer, you do not have the right to dictate proper behavior on that property to that property owner, nor destroy their property.