Your teeth belong to the collective.
– From a Planet Money piece quoted by Alex Tabarrok (who was linked to today by David Thompson), about how China went from the bad old days of the Great Leap Forward to the better days that followed. The above words, which Thompson also singled out for attention in his link, were an answer to a property rights query to those in authority, in the bad old days. Do we even own our teeth? No you do not.
The switch from collective “property” to actual property, as Tabarrok makes clear, was initiated by the people of China, rather than by their rulers. It began in the village of Xiaogang, whose farmers decided to go back to actual property for each individual farmer and his family, with immediate beneficial effects. And then it became a movement. The rulers of China didn’t decide to make this change. They merely decided not to stamp it out.