Thursday, June 29, 2006

Flag Burning Amendment Fails

"Our country's unique because our dissidents have a voice. While I take offense at disrespect to the flag. I nonetheless believe it is my continued duty as a veteran, as an American citizen, and as a United States senator to defend the constitutional right of protesters to use the flag in nonviolent speech."

Senator Daniel Inouye (HI)

The moral argument against outlawing flag desecration is that people have the right to say whatever they like in whatever manner they like. The realpolitik argument against it is that it makes it easier to identify the hardcore malcontents. A person who burns a flag has to understand that it is not a good way to gain support for one's cause. At the same time, it is probably very emotionally gratifying for a flag burner to upset onlookers. But it is a far healthier emotional outlet for a protester to burn a flag than to engage in violence or distraction of property.

Nevertheless, if the issue of flag burning is still important to you, if the three flag burnings that took place last year cause you as much grief as the rest of this country's problems, then this is my idea. Retailers and manufacturers of American flags can require customers sign a contract that requires them to refrain from intentionally abusing the flag. A person who signed such a contract and desecrated it anyway would face severe civil penalties. If anyone truly wished to burn a flag while avoiding getting sued, they would have to make the flag themselves.

It is already common practice for people to waive certain free speech rights in exchange for certain privileges. For example, I waive the right to denounce Securitas Corporation in exchange for the privilege of my continued employment with that company. Likewise, you might have the right to call your friend a jerk to his face, and he has the right to stop hanging out with you anymore. So you waive that right to call him a jerk.

Regular readers of this blog may remember when it was noted that she had supported a ban on flag desecration. She has voted against that amendment. She may believe that it is not necessary to amend the Constitution when she can simply violate it. Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar have voted for the amendment. I do wonder what Hoosier Democrats and Republicans have to say about that.


  1. This is a luxury issue if ever there was one - a constitutional amendment to ban a practice that is rare and harmless. If the Congress has no more important issues to consider, the country is in great shape.

  2. I doubt that very much. At least this issue keeps them from screwing up things in other areas. We'd all be better off if they were in session 3 days a year and played golf the rest of the time.

  3. This article by Murray Rothbard is the best article I ever read on the silly flag burning issue. He makes the great point that it's not a free speech issue at all; it's a property rights issue.


  4. You make a great point, Debbie. Most issues are interconnected, and if a person believes in the absolute sanctity of property (as you and I do) than they should believe in the right to dispose of that property. Of course what is also probably at stake is the right to, say, make a computer generated image of a flag being defiled.

    Unfortunatly, many people do not see property rights the way you and I see them. Many times I have to address free speech and property as seperate issues. If I thought I did have their undivided attention long enough to properly indoctrinate them, I could establish free speech as an extension of property rights. And you are going to find a lot of college students with short attention spans who get more excited about free speech than they do about property rights.

    But I do think it would help if you could recomend some good ideological sites like Different people have various levels of interests in politics. Some people are going to vote on the basis of frivilous things like looks and name recognition. Some are going to vote on the basis of a few hot button issues. Some are going to vote based on the character of the candidates. And some are going to put some in depth research on how they decide to vote. I'll need that list of websites to appeal to the latter.

    I really do wish more voters were as smart as you, Debbie. It would make it easier for a nerd like me to win.