No More Viagra For Mario Monti And His Ilk

testosteronepit's picture

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com

Economic, regulatory, and entitlement reforms are tough. While they’re supposed to open opportunities, put budgets on sounder footing, or make the economy more competitive, they invariably cut into the flesh of some groups, who then react with demonstrations and strikes to draw attention to their plight and put pressure on the reformers to preserve the status quo.

This has been happening across the Eurozone wherever major reforms have been attempted. People in those demonstrations may speak of revolution—meaning a radical change. But they want the opposite: preserve the existing system, protections, and entitlements. So it’s complicated. Greece is a salient example with impressive TV footage of street battles, Molotov cocktails, and burning buildings. In other countries, France for instance, reforms have been greeted with peaceful demonstrations and more disruptively, with massive transportation strikes that throw innocent bystanders, such as businesses, commuters, and travelers, into utter chaos, sometimes for days.

But now the perhaps most tongue-in-cheek effort will take place in Italy where unelected technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti and his government are trying to liberalize the economy and create conditions for growth by reforming a whole slew of professions whose insiders are protected by regulatory barriers to entry. Growth is essential. Italy is staggering under its debt. Already, the ECB bought piles of Italian government bonds and printed a mountain of euros that it handed to the banks, including Italian banks, so that they would buy crappy bonds for which the financial markets had lost their appetite. Without those actions, controversial and inflationary as they may be, Italy would have to face the music. It’s tough out there.

"The financial aspect of the crisis is over," declared a relieved Monti last week while visiting Japan, a country mired in a much deeper fiscal hole than Italy but endowed with a central bank that has no compunction about monetizing government deficits. Alas, as he gloated about the progress his government has made in reforming the economy, the targets of his reforms weren't quite so happy.

Among them are state-employed hospital pharmacists, an integral part of Italy's public health care system. They’re upset because the reforms envision issuing 5,000 licenses mostly for new private pharmacies—creating jobs for young unemployed pharmacists who are stewing at their parents’ house while waiting for a miracle. These private pharmacies would then compete with hospital pharmacies. Scared out of their wits by these evil machinations, hospital pharmacists have come up with an ingenious plan: hit back where it hurts the most, and not willy-nilly in every direction, but go after the very top of the power structure, the old men that run the show.

Standard labor actions commence in April and will rise into a crescendo. The old men that run the show should heed the warning; if they don’t water down the reforms, the hospital pharmacists will roll out their ultimate weapon. It will be brutal and life-altering. No more ... Viagra. Hospital pharmacists will cease selling it. Men who habitually use it will be cut off cold turkey and will be cast into abstinence hell. The "Viagra strike” is aimed straight at those responsible for the reforms—the old men in parliament and at Monti himself. The logic is impeccable. And, as Union official Loredana Vasselli points out, it "does not put patients’ health at risk."

Only flaw in the logic: given the early warning, these men could acquire a stash in advance to get them through the strike. Thus, hording could actually cause a spike in pharmacy sales. However, like any Italian man worth his salt, Monti, if pressed by reporters, would deny with casual eloquence that he is hording Viagra....

It’s a heck of a lot better than the astonishing ploy used with impunity across the border. For a debacle that is viewed as amusing by everyone except the bosses, read.... Taking Bosses Hostage: A Labor Negotiating Tactic In France.