An outstanding feature of modern economic life is the institution of private property. By private property we mean the things owned exclusively by a person or group of persons with the right to use them as they desire.
It differs from public property in the sense that public property is owned by the community at large and administered by individuals or groups as agents of the community.
For example, railways are public property. The land owned by a landlord is private property. The private property may be distinguished from public property in respect of the following points:
(i) Firstly, private property is owned by a person or group of persons whereas public property is owned by the community.
(ii) Secondly, private property is usually used by its owner for his own good while public property is used for public good.
(iii)Thirdly, private property is subject to regulations by the state while public property belongs to the state itself and is not subject to regulation by any external group. In other words, private property rights are subject to supervision, regulation and control by the state.
The institution of private property has gathered a great controversy around itself. It has got both its strong supporters and bitter critics.
On the one hand, if it is regarded as essential for social progress, on the other, it is called ‘theft’. The economic institution of capitalism is based on private property.