State ownership may refer to state ownership or control of any asset, industry, or enterprise at any level, national, regional or local (municipal); or to common (full-community) non-state ownership. The process of bringing an asset into public ownership is called nationalization or municipalization.
In primarily market-based economies, government-owned assets are often managed and run like joint-stock corporations with the government owning a controlling stake of the shares. This model is often referred to as a state-owned enterprise. A government-owned corporation (sometimes state-owned enterprise, SOE) may resemble a not-for-profit corporation as it may not be required to generate a profit. Governments may also use profitable entities they own to support the general budget. SOE's may or may not be expected to operate in a broadly commercial manner and may or may not have monopolies in their areas of activity. The creation of a government-owned corporation (corporatization) from other forms of government ownership may be a precursor to privatization.
In socialist economies, state property is often the predominant form of ownership of industries and holds a monopoly on land and natural resources. There is a wide variety in forms of operation within socialist industries, ranging from centralized authority to direct workers' self-management.
When ownership of a resource is vested in the state, or any branch of the state such as a local authority, individual use "rights" are based on the state's management policies, though these rights are not property rights as they are not transmissible. For example, if a family is allocated an apartment that is state owned, it will have been granted a tenancy of the apartment, which may be lifelong or inheritable, but the management and control rights are held by various government departments.
There is a distinction to be made between state ownership and public property. The former may refer to assets operated by a specific organization of the state used exclusively by their operators or that organization, such as a research laboratory, while public property refers to assets and resources that are available to the entire public for use, such as a public park (see public space).
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