Let's make the following definition:

"Private ownership" of means of production means 3 things:

  1. The profit from selling things produced go to someone dubbed an "owner", who is one or more private person (e.g. NOT government/state)

  2. The "owner" is legally allowed to sell ownership to another person/group of persons.

  3. The "owner" can decide to stop producing if they feel like it, barring absence of contraindicating legally binding contracts.

if you don't think that private ownership of means of production means something different, you can simply mentally call whatever I defined above "SocioEconomic Condition #1" instead. This question is about facts, not semantics.


Are/were there any countries or governments that officially label(ed) themselves "Socialist" but where over 50% of means of production in the country are privately owned as per above definition? (... and there are no official stated plans by the government to drive that share below 50% in the near future)

50% can be measured by GDP produced, or by % of labour force employed.

For the purposes of this question, we will ignore the issues of presence or absence of competitive markets, or density of capital accumulation.

  • 1
    I don't know enough about it to write an answer anywhere near as good as those below, but Portugal's constitution still contains references to socialism (although fewer than it once did), and has a more or less mainstream European-style mixed economy.
    – user97
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 18:31
  • 2
    Note that privately owned and socialism may not be mutually exclusive. Socialism may be defined as social ownership of the means of production, which usually includes employee-owned cooperatives. Employee-owned cooperatives would almost certainly be counted as private ownership in statistics cited in any answer, but may very well be considered socialist.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 23:23
  • 1
    @gerrit - depends on which of the many definitions of "socialsm" you go by. Lenin AFAIR was against even cooperatives in theory (never mind his mindchanges with NEP)
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 16:17
  • Was it socialism or communism he was talking about there?
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 16:17
  • @gerrit - socialism. I don't think any country ever officially claimed to be "communist" :)
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 17:12

3 Answers 3


My precedence country ( The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ) is the best example, its government characteristics matches with all your description:

  • The president Hugo Chavez declared his government is Socialist or in the route to establish the Socialism.

  • The government manages several natural resources like Gas, Coal, Iron, Gold, Oil, Sea, Water, Mass Transport Services (subway), Trains, Sea transport, Electricity, and has a company in the telecommunications sector. This article Estructura socio - economica de Venezuela ("Socio-economic Structure of Venezuela") is in Spanish but there you can find information related about the companies controlled by the Venezuelan Government.

In the next image you can see the proportions between the private and the public sector in Venezuela, in green the private sector which represents 93.23% of the economy, and in white the public sector. It's given by the INE ( Statistics National Institute ), here is the source in Spanish Censo Economico "Economical Census" (2007-2008).

...Proportions between private sector and Public Sector ....Economical Units by Sector

  • In this country the economy is extremely regulated by the State, but the privates still allowed to invest, sell shares, sell the company but they aren't allowed to stop the production or fire personal ( If they do the company can be taken by the government declaring it public utility ). An example is Empresas Polar the biggest private company in Venezuela, and foreign companies have the same rights like Coca-cola, and others.

PD1: Privates aren't allowed to invest in "strategic" areas that I listed in my first point, unless the government makes an exception or a Mixed company ( 51% controlled by the government ).

PD2: I tried to answer the most objective I could.

  • 3
    I was under assumption that the goal of Chavez regime's goal was to increase such percentages? (that caveat was specifically to cover countries which are starting to move from market economy to "socialism" but haven't had enough time to complete the transition). In other words, is Chaves' stated goal to stay at 6.77%, or go up to 50+%?
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 17:40
  • Also, are "private sector" defined to fit the question above? (owners get profits, AND can sell the enterprise to other private owners)?
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 17:41
  • @DVK In his actual re-election he said "The private Sector is needed as the Public Sector", but he didn't share his goals in his electoral campaign. And yes, the private sector works as your description. Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 17:48
  • 2
    @gerrit Cause even having the big private sector the economy is very controlled by the government like: Good's Price Regulations, Control of change (companies can't buy dollars or euros or any foreign current), the companies can't invest in areas of their wish, the companies have to pay very high taxes and can't fire personal because of the immovability of personnel. Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 18:14
  • 3
    @gerrit - if you can't decide where to invest, whom to fire/hire, and especially how to set prices, you are no longer "running" a company. The regulator does. That's objectively extreme. It may nominally be private in a sense of the owner collecting the (hopefully, existing) profits, especially if you are allowed to sell to new owner (not sure if that's the case with Venezuela); but there are pretty much no important things left that are NOT regulated.
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 22, 2012 at 6:16

The People's Republic of China is ruled by the Communist Party of China, which probably means it self-identifies as socialist. Some statistics from Wikipedia:

From the list of countries by government spending, the government spending in China is 20.8% of GDP.

From the Economy of the PRC:

As of 2012 large state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were the backbone of China's economy producing over 50% of its goods and services and employing over half of the workers in China.

but also:

As of 2011, 35% of business activity and 43% of profits in the People's Republic of China resulted from companies in which the state owned a majority interest.

  • I'll do a bit more digging; I don't know exactly how they define business activity and whether the amount owned is below or above 50%. I'll update the answer later.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 17:41
  • 2
    Also, an important factor to look into is whether miliitary-industrial complex is included in the statistics (it is 100% state-owned nominally, through the military).
    – user4012
    Commented Dec 9, 2012 at 17:42
  • A lot of Chinese companies are required to have a Communist Party member on their board. Commented May 3, 2019 at 1:40
  • @user2617804 At 90 million members, those shouldn't be too hard to find.
    – gerrit
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 7:18
  • Senior communist party members- not so many of those. Commented May 3, 2019 at 10:57

I think this question has more complexity than just the ratio of government and private businesses. That is one side. Other side is social development of the country. If we consider this, we can say one country is more socialistic than an another. On the top of that we shouldn't mix the communist ideology with socialist.

Ideal socialist countries should be where:

  • a. where social benefits are widely available and highly supported by local or governmental authorities.
  • b. where more basic functions of a society are state owned (education, energy, public health etc...)
  • c. where labor unions are strong and independent from higher control, they are directly empowered by workers.
  • d. where the rights of people are flat, and divided equally in the society

So let's see examples:
Communist states (North Korea, China, Soviet union): a. true (but non functional), b. true, c. false (it is very dependent on government), d. false
Scandinavian model (Norway, Sweden): a. true, b. true, c. true, d. true

I know these for sure, other countries need further research for me.

  • Do you have any support for "a-d"=="Ideal socialist countries"?
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 14:08
  • Your points a-d are rather about social democracy (sometimes incorrectly (?) called democratic socialism) than about socialism. Scandinavian countries are social-democrat not socialist.
    – gerrit
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 7:22
  • Labels never help. Commented May 3, 2019 at 3:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .