Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

Martin Feil: The Failure of Free-Market Economics

Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

Martin Feil: The Failure of Free-Market Economics

Article excerpt

Martin Feil

The Failure of Free-Market Economics

Scribe Publishers, Melbourne, 2010, 288 pp., $35.

Martin Feil is an economist who has had a Road to Damascus experience, albeit of the slow maturing variety. From rising young star in the Holy War against tariff protection, Feil has become an ardent prosyletiser against 'free-market economics' and the practices that prevail under that ideological banner.

To finance his evening course studies for a Sydney University economics degree ('that dismal faculty') Feil got a job in the Department of Customs & Excise in 1968 (being Catholic probably helped get into a Catholic bastion). The capable Feil moved up in Customs and to the Tariff Board in 1974, just as it was being transformed into the Industries Assistance Commission by the Whitlam Government and its zealous head Alf Rattigan was attempting a systematic demolition of the tariff protection regime behind which lived the Australian manufacturing sector.

Said Feil, 'I believed completely in what we were trying to do. I was young, green and idealistic.' Feil notes that his naivete was shared at the highest levels. In particular, IAC staff assumed that lower protection on imports would lead automatically to lower consumer prices. Not so. The importers kept most of the booty.

After integral involvement in many industry investigations and reports, instead of moving up the IAC hierarchy, Feil left the public service in the late 1970s. He used his expertise in customs protocol and the tariff to advise industry (especially importers) in various consultancies, from his own to employment in the big firms Deloitte and Ernst & Young. By the time that the tariff regime was being wound down in the early 1990s, Feil had acquired, among others, a new expertise in the field of transfer pricing by multinational companies--consistent with the Australian Taxation Office's push on the issue from the late 1980s. …

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