Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) is celebrating yesterday's unanimous approval by the House of his Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, which tells homeowners and condominium associations they have to let their members fly Old Glory. The bill now goes to the Senate, which surely will pass it in time for July 4, lest anyone in America be forced to endure another flagless Independence Day. "I was alarmed to learn from my constituent Hugh Warner, who is a flag dealer, that some homeowners associations and condos prevent Americans from flying the American flag at their homes," Bartlett explains. "That's why I introduced this bill. H.R. 42 will guarantee Americans the freedom to display the American flag in front of their homes."
If there's anything stupider than a rule telling people they can't display American flags, it's the conclusion that such nitpicky micro-regulations by private residential associations represent a national crisis requiring congressional intervention. Condo and home owners do, after all, agree to these restrictions when they buy their homes. And as Virginia Postrel pointed out in Reason a few years ago, some people actually pick a place to live because they want their neighbors to be constrained by rigid, detailed aesthetic rules. Is Bartlett next going to take up the cause of homeowners who want to paint their houses bright purple or put up metal swingsets?
It is dispiriting that not a single member of the House stopped to think about the (nonexistent) constitutional basis for this legislation or about the rights to freedom of association and freedom of contract that it so blithely violates. I can only hope Ron Paul was absent that day.