Re: The land of the free?
To be fair, the popularity of HOAs in the US stemmed from the crazy/weird/stupid things so many people do with their homes when left to their own devices (painting their house "Barney purple", having 5 cars up on blocks in the front yard, dead lawns, etc). Anyone buying a home in a "covenant controlled" (as they call it) neighborhood KNOWS they are doing that, and are voluntarily agreeing to be bound by the HOA rules (which I'm *sure* they all read in detail, right?). There are still plenty of homes to be bought that do not come with an HOA, if that is an important factor for someone, though admittedly they're mostly in much older neighborhoods and you're unlikely to find a new house without one.
In my experience, most people are happy to have an HOA to protect them from the things they wouldn't want their neighbors doing, and only take issue with it when they realize that something they want to do (or not to do, like remove weeds) has the fine-hammer pointed at them. Most never actually read the HOA rules, and so end up surprised that some little thing they think is fine is specifically against the rules (no, you can't leave your RV parked in front of your house for a week, for instance, even if you need to "load" it).
As with any legally binding contract, and especially in this case as HOAs have foreclosure power, you really should be reading the entire thing before committing to it.