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Nationalization is the act of taking assets into state ownership. Usually it refers to private assets being nationalised, but sometimes it may be assets owned by other levels of government, such as municipalities. Similarly, the opposite of nationalization is usually privatization, but sometimes it may be municipalization. Nationalization that happens after a previous privatization is often called renationalization.

A key issue in nationalization is whether the private owner is properly compensated for the value of the institution. The most controversial nationalizations are those where no compensation is paid or an amount unreasonably below the likely market rate (expropriation). Many nationalizations through expropriation have come after revolutions, especially communist ones.

The cost of legally buying a large business is such that many legal nationalizations have happened when firms of national importance run into trouble (close to bankruptcy), and could be acquired by the government for little or no money. A classic example is the UK nationalization in the 1970s of the car-maker British Leyland. At other times governments have felt it important to gain control of institutions and industries of strategic economic importance, such as banks or railways, or of important industries struggling economically. This policy was sometimes known as ensuring government control of the "commanding heights" of the economy, to enable it to manage the economy better in terms of long-term development and medium-term stability. The extent of this policy declined in the 1980s and 1990s as governments increasingly privatised industries that had been nationalised, replacing their strategic economic influence with use of the tax system and of interest rates.

Notable nationalizations

See also

Last updated: 05-07-2005 12:43:28
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04