This is probably a question that should not have to be asked, but I find that many people I have encountered do not seem to really understand the difference. Many people believe that they own an item, when in reality they are just allowed to possess it for a time.
This topic has been broached in regards to home ownership recently after the housing bubble of a few years past, principally because so many who had never considered the possibility were suddenly indoctrinated by the large number of foreclosures and the fact that the stories were drummed so heavily by the press. Even those not experiencing foreclosures, or being threatened with one, likely knew of someone who did. It became abundantly clear to all of us that the banks and lending organizations had a higher priority claim to our homes than we did, and there was little we could do about it.
But what if you have the title to your home “free and clear” and you owe no money for a mortgage and there is no lien against it? Can you say that you own it then? You can say it, but you would be wrong. You are subject to, according to your location, at least one form of government requirement.
If you live in an area where property taxes are charged, you must pay these taxes or be subjected to government mandated eviction from a home that may have been in your family for generations, at which point it will be auctioned off to the highest bidder so that the government can collect the revenue it had charged you for the use of what you considered to be your sacred and safe home.
You may also be subject to building and zoning codes. If you are not allowed to add something as simple as a garage next to your house because the building codes are so restrictive that the cost becomes excessively high, especially in areas where unethical governing bodies keep a list of “approved” contractors, who frequently become approved not by their record but by paying fees and buying licenses, then you can not be said to own that property, as you are not allowed to make the decisions regarding the development of it without government permission.
Two other situations you might face are eminent domain and annexation. In either case, the government has reserved itself the right in many instances to declare that “your” property must be used for some other purpose, and your home must be removed to make way for their progress. In lesser cases, you may be required to do something seemingly beneficial such as seal off your well and septic system and allow them to hook your residence up to city water and sewer. They will usually charge you dearly for this, and failure to comply will generally end up with the property being condemned and declared unfit for human habitation, after which you will no longer be able to use it, and will have to sell.
Now we move to the invaluable American automobile. You say that you have paid off the loan, so now you own it, right? It’s not quite so easy as that. Sure, you can own it and not have to be beholden to anyone, but only if it is never driven off of your property (something which we have already questioned).
First, whoever drives it must have a driver’s license, which requires one to agree to a government record check before you are given permission to have one. Then you must pay the applicable fees and taxes and allow the government to record your information in their data base.
Once this is done, it is time to get essentially the same done for your vehicle. It’s identity must be verified, in some areas it must pass a mandatory inspection, and then more taxes and fees must be paid in order to obtain permission to operate it in “public” in the form of license plates and registrations.
And we’re still not done. In 49 states, insurance is also mandatory, and if you have a blemished record, “high-risk” (expensive) insurance may also be mandatory. In addition, if you have borrowed money to obtain the car, full coverage insurance will also be required to satisfy the lender.
After you have gone through all of this, get careless and receive a citation for any one of a list of offenses, and be subject to having your vehicle impounded, which will cost you another hefty fee, or may even result in your car being sold at auction to recover the money which was charged you by the government for your offense. This could stem from something as simple as being delayed and being unable to return to your car to prevent it from being towed when the meter expired.
If you think that the above situations are rare and will never happen to you or anyone you care about, I invite you to simply check your local paper for sometimes voluminous lists of real estate and vehicle auctions. It happens all of the time.
There are also many other items subject to confiscation, even though we generally think that we own them. Two scenarios which immediately come to mind are TSA confiscations of items that they declare contraband, yet will not allow you to leave with once they have found them, and the recent flurry of gun confiscations in California perpetrated on people who did nothing wrong aside from finding themselves on the “not approved to possess firearms” list.
When the government, or any other entity, can freely charge you for the privilege of possessing something, and it can be confiscated for your failure to abide by regulations of which you may not even be aware, how can we claim ownership?
We have gradually allowed the government, over the course of many years, to gain the power to regulate our possessions, even our homes, to such an extent that perhaps it is time for us to admit that we no longer own these things, but the government does, and allows us to use them at their whim.