Syndicated columnist George Will seems like a smart guy on TV, but his brain has calcified around the idea that the greatest individual right that we have won in more than 200 years of struggle is the right to contract. This is the right that allows us to create and accumulate personal wealth.

Will’s column of Oct. 6 (“Collectivist social agenda misses the point”) is his latest diatribe against what he sees as the primary enemies of this right: business regulations and the progressive income tax.

Will is way out in left (maybe right) field on this one for several reasons.

First, every financial catastrophe the United States has encountered since its founding has been related to or caused by a lack, not a surplus, of regulation. One need look no further than the current crisis to see failure by the government to impose sensible restrictions on the growth of new markets has resulted in a widening of the gap between rich and poor, jobless rates not seen since the Great Depression, home repossessions, bank failures, a decline in the more traditional markets — the list goes on and on.

Are we in the United States overregulated? Market Watch did a recent survey of business regulations in 181 countries. The United States was found to be the fifth LEAST regulated country in the study. There is an obvious cause-and-effect relationship.

Will’s second bugbear, the progressive income tax, has been around longer than he has and is the standard for taxation in the industrialized world. Taxation itself is promoted in the Bible. God asks for only 10 percent of your wealth. God needs less than the government does because God can feed more people with fewer loaves and fishes. One of the basic premises of progressive taxation is that someone who makes $20 million and pays a flat 10 percent tax still has $18 million to live on, whereas a person who makes $20,000 and pays at the same rate only has $18,000 to live on. Try it — you won’t like it.

Our country is quickly becoming a land of haves and have-nots where your job, your business, your bank and your home (not to mention our bridges, roads and schools) are not safe because the richest among us refuse to pay their fair share or allow sensible government regulations that would prevent another wild West, investing spree, meltdown of our economy.

If this is Will’s idea of the pursuit of happiness, he can keep it.

Michael Hale

intormation technology consultant

Baton Rouge