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America only needs to price its sovereign bonds to a small spread below the prices of its many component corporate bonds, whereas the common market drives multiple sovereign nations to compete in bond prices. Consequently, half of the member nations will oppose consolidation. because bond rates and prices go in opposite directions. The economically stronger nations, no matter who they happen to be, will always have an incentive to oppose bond consolidation because they see it as the richer nations subsidizing the poorer ones when they wanted to believe their success was their own ingenuity and hard work. When survivors of a previous war are still alive it gets even harder to raise your own costs on behalf of a former enemy. The poorer nations, for their part, pay dearly for the opportunity to inflate away government expenditures. Texas surely nursed feelings of this sort in 1913 when the Federal Reserve demanded national bond rates. But only the ignorant ones feel that way, today. New York is constantly looking for ways to escape subsidizing Alabama, but eventually, the tide will turn. New York and California are eternally bemoaning their high taxes, so there is probably an upper bound to what will work. Meanwhile, stocks in a panic fall further than they should have because they had risen too high.
There are no perfect alternatives, but the volatile nature of interest rates creates opportunities to introduce variable mixtures of active and passive bond pricing, depending on circumstances, as an outgrowth of the obvious need to introduce a new currency gradually. The American experience of having state and federal bond systems coexist may well provide useful guidance, and in any event, shows unification can be accomplished.
Originally published: Tuesday, October 02, 2018; most-recently modified: Friday, May 31, 2019