Who Owns Government Property?

Many years ago, I bought a stolen car. I did not buy this car from the person who stole it, but I did buy it from the person from whom it was stolen. Fortunately, he went through the judicial process to get his title restored. The experience made me think about who actually owns our property. We have titles to our real estate. We have registrations for cars. Yet it was an agent of the government (a judge) who decided who actually had title to this stolen.

Recently, I had an online discussion with an individual who believed that the taxpayers own property purchased by the government. Was he correct?

The Practical Side

I must admit, although I didn’t share this with the other party, he did have a practical point. The government buys all sorts of stuff supposedly in our names. We do elect them to represent us, don’t we?

In the place where I live, the government has built stadiums that I will never sit in. They’ve built roads that I will never drive on. They have built buildings that I will never set foot in.

But do I have anything to say about how they spend tax money they might take from me?

Theft or Taxation

Over 100 years ago, the government convinced voters they should be given the power to confiscate personal property. An act that we would consider in the private sector to be theft becomes known as taxation when authorized by the government, and ratified by the citizens. What were our forefathers thinking when they authorized our own government to steal from us?

On this issue, the question of government ownership of property hinges. Since we have authorized the government to take our money, what they spend it on belongs to the government — no doubt about it.

Subjective Value

Since the government owns the money it spends, it owns the property it acquires. The determination of what to spend their money on, as with all determinations of subjective value, reflects the preferences of the people in government who spend that money.

Politicians promise, cajole, and frequently lie to get voters to believe that they actually can read minds and make judgments based on the voter’s subjective values. When all else is considered, the politician has only one motivation for spending money. He, or she, simply wants to get reelected.

Not Yours

Now, if you’re still not convinced that you have no ownership stake in government property, look at signs you might encounter as you pass by parks, reservoirs, and “public buildings.”

If the bureaucrats in government do not doubt who owns this property, you should not either.


The next time you hear the phrase, “They’re spending taxpayer money,” remember that long ago, citizens of this country gave government officials the authority to spend government money (taken from you by force) based on their values and not yours.