Public property and government

This is the third and final installment of our series on public property. In order to understand this discussion, one should have read the previous installments:

On co-ownership and public property

Property, possession and holding

In part 1 I have proposed that public property is a type of co-ownership with all citizens as co-owners. That is that all citizens have a share in publicly owned property.

One should notice that I state that citizens own public property and not the government. So what is the relation between citizens, government and public property?

As I have pointed out earlier a large number of co-owners requires that co-owners agree upon an arrangement regarding to the management of their property. Major decisions are made by the co-owners but daily decisions are usually left by a manager assigned by them.

This manager does not own the property is responsible for, unless he or she is one of the co-owners, but is authorized by the owners to act upon their behalf. Instead he is holding the property for its owners.

A real life example of such relation would be if you own a boat with friends. Most of the time your boat lays in some harbor and the harbor manager is responsible for that, for instance, the boat is not stolen.

The position of the government is similar to that of the harbor manager. In a similar fashion the government holds public property for the citizens. The government should manage public property in such way that it best fits the interests of all citizens.

It is desirable that government has authority of disposal in regard of public property. That is the government should be allowed to lend, lease out and in some situation to sell off public property.

A consequence of this approach to public property is that the revenue raised by leasing out land belongs to the citizens rather than the government. Of course, government employees need to be paid but this only accounts for a portion of total revenue*.

Several possibilities exist to deal with such public revenue, though those are outside the scope of this essay. Regardless, how public money is spend, the citizens should be involved in budgetary decisions.

*For the sake of completeness, I here only refer to those government officials charged with management of public property only.