Nationalization (British English spelling nationalisation) is the process of taking a private industry or private assets into public ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being transferred to the public sector to be operated and owned by the state. The opposite of nationalization is usually privatization or de-nationalization, but may also be municipalization. Industries that are usually subject nationalization include transport, communications, energy, banking and natural resources, though there are other areas and there have even been calls for the nationalization of the legal service.

A renationalization occurs when state-owned assets are privatized and later nationalized again, often when a different political party or faction is in power. A renationalization process may also be called reverse privatization. Nationalization has been used to refer to either direct state-ownership and management of an enterprise or to a government acquiring a large controlling share of a nominally private, publicly listed corporation.

Nationalization was one of the major strategies advocated by socialists for transitioning from capitalism to socialism. Socialist ideologies that favor nationalization are typically called state socialism. In this context, the goals of nationalization were to dispossess large capitalists and redirect the profits of industry to the public purse, as a precursor to the long-term goals of establishing worker-management and reorganizing production toward use.

Nationalized industries, charged with operating in the public interest, may be under strong political and social pressures to give much more attention to externalities. They may be obliged to operate some loss making activities where social benefits are clearly greater than social costs — for example, rural postal and transport services. As an instance, the United States Postal Service is guaranteed its nationalised status by the Constitution. The government has recognized these social obligations and, in some cases, provides subsidies for such non-commercial operations.

Since the nationalised industries are state owned, the government is responsible for meeting any debts incurred by these industries. The nationalized industries do not normally borrow from the domestic market other than for short-term borrowing. However, if they are profitable, the profit is often used as a means to finance other state services, such as social programs and government research — which can help lower the tax burden.

Nationalization may occur with or without compensation to the former owners. If it takes place without compensation it is a case of expropriation. Nationalization is distinguished from property redistribution in that the government retains control of nationalized property. Some nationalizations take place when a government seizes property acquired illegally. For example, in 1945 the French government seized the car-makers Renault because its owners had collaborated with the Nazi occupiers of France.

Read more about Nationalization:  Compensation

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