Originally appeared in the October 1995 issue of The Free Market
There are many curious aspects to the latest flag fracas. There is the absurdity of the proposed change in our basic constitutional framework by treating such minor specifics as a flag law. There is the proposal to outlaw “desecration” of the American flag. “Desecration” means “to divest of a sacred character or office.” Is the American flag, battle emblem of the U.S. government, supposed to be “sacred”? Are we to make a religion of statolatry? What sort of grotesque religion is that?
And what is “desecrate” supposed to mean? What specific acts are to be outlawed? Burning seems to be the big problem, although the quantity of flag-burning in the United States seems to be somewhere close to zero. In fact, most flag-burning occurs when patriotic groups such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars solemnly burn their worn-out American flags in the prescribed manner.
But if burning the flag is to be banned, are we to clap numerous American Legion or VFW people in the hoosegow? Oh, you say that intent is the crucial point, and that you want to outlaw hippie types who burn U.S. flags with a sneer and a curse. But how are the police supposed to figure out intent, and make sure that the majesty of the law falls only upon hippie sneerers, and spares reverent, saluting Legionnaires?
Read more via The Flag Flap by Murray N. Rothbard.