After years of ever-increasing employee benefits, lifetime job security and little or no competition, Italy's economy is in serious trouble, AWB President Don Brunell writes in his weekly column.
If it collapses, it will trigger an economic crisis that will reverberate throughout Europe and the global economy, dwarfing the problems facing nearby - but much smaller - Greece.
Blame for the crisis rests on a complicated system called "la casta" that's designed to insulate the country from the demands and stresses of a free-market economy. It adds so much cost and bureaucracy to society that it's nearly impossible to fire anyone or start a new business.
Prime Minister Mario Monti's government is attempting to institute economic reforms, but its running into opposition. The hospital pharmacist guild, for example, is threatening to cut off the nation's supply of Viagra if Monti goes ahead with his plan to open 5,000 new pharmacies.
It's a cautionary tale for those who seek to replace our free-market system with government controls and protectionism.
"We don't need to speculate on where that road leads," Brunell writes. "We know."