Property premium is the key concept in the system of property-based economics developed by Gunnar Heinsohn, Otto Steiger, and Hans-Joachim Stadermann. It is an insight derived from the legal distinction between property and possession which is made by jurists, but not by economists.
The distinction between property and possession is used by Heinsohn and Steiger to classify forms of society. "Three distinctive systems of material reproduction are known to man: (i) custom or tribal societies, (ii) command or feudal societies and (iii) ownership- or property-based societies." The first two are based on possession, which is a physical, material concept. Property, on the other hand, is an abstract, intangible concept, and thus can only exist as a creation of law and within the realm established by the rule of law. Where such a regime of law is established, property arises; and it is accompanied by the phenomenon of property premium. "As soon as property is created it carries an unearned and immaterial premium, the property premium. This premium exists in addition to the physical use of goods or resources in their possessional state and consists of two powers: (i) its capacity of backing the issue of money which can be created only in a credit contract and (ii) its eligibility to serve as collateral for obtaining credit."
It is this property premium which explains the phenomenon of interest. The owner gives up his property premium by using his property to back the issue of that money; what he gains in exchange is interest. The borrower likewise forgoes property premium in engaging a loan, because he must back his promise of repayment with collateral, pledging his property as security for repayment of the loan. What he receives in return is liquidity premium, which is the capacity to cancel indebtedness. "Keynes's idea that interest is the payment for forgoing liquidity premium, therefore, falls short. The debtor's payment of interest materializes the creditor's property premium, while the debtor's property premium gives rise to liquidity premium."
This ingenious explanation for the existence of interest also demonstrates that interest is simply an aspect of property within the regime of private law. Within that regime it is inescapable; outside of it, in possession-oriented regimes whether tribal or communist, it is unobtainable.
- Heinsohn and Steiger, Eigentum, Zins und Geld: Ungelöste Rätsel der Wirtshaftswissenschaft (Marburg: Metropolis-Verlag, 20064), p. 471 (abstract in English).
- "The liquidity premium is a measure of a debtor's capacity to fulfil contracts, credit contracts and sales contracts alike. Money as the only asset to finally settle contracts, therefore, carries liquidity premium per se. Other assets which are not money, from demand deposits over marketable debt titles to capital assets, have a liquidity premium bequeathed to them by the very existence of money and according to their degree of transformability into money." ibid., p. 472.
- ibid., pp. 471-472.
- Heinsohn and Steiger, "The Property Theory of Interest and Money"
- Heinsohn and Steiger, "Collateral: The Missing Link in the Theory of the Rate of Interest"
- Betz, "The Property Theories of Bethell, Pipes and de Soto: Similarities and Differences in Emphasis to the Approach of Heinsohn, Stadermann and Steiger"
- Heinsohn and Steiger, "Interest and Money: The Property Explanation"
- Läufer, "The Heinsohn-Steiger confusion on interest, money and property"