McPherson Square in downtown D.C. was alive last weekend with protest signs and angry chants as more than 100 people took part in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations spreading throughout the country.
The edges of one end of the park were scattered with sleeping bags, blankets and cardboard signs, and the main sidewalk was complete with an information table, food supplies and a “take one, leave one” cigarette box.

Most of the protesters gathered on the grass where organized “assembly meeting” speakers shouted scheduled times for various workshops about talking to the media and handling the police. The group would creepily repeat what another speaker was saying line-by-line, and then shake their hands in the air in unison when they agreed with a speaker.

But aside from the unorthodox collective mentality, their message was in no way unified. I was pleased to see veterans and military personnel in uniform holding anti-war signs. It brought back memories of the days when the antiwar movement actually existed. There were signs about everything from advocating free health care to demanding jobs and better pay. Some simply claimed they were the “99 percent” — the group that is not part of the wealthiest 1 percent — and wanted to end capitalism all together. I was surprised at how anti-government many of them were, but then demanded so many things from that same government as if it were God.

One self-described socialist I spoke to claimed that we would achieve true freedom if only we could all have free education and health care handed to us by the government. His love for European-style socialism ran so deep that he apparently didn’t have time to think about the impending Euro and debt crisis ravaging Greece and many other European countries, brought on by the very same idealistic policies he was advocating. I wondered how an individual could truly be free if the state could forcibly demand him to submit to such an ideology at gunpoint and have no freedom to make choices for himself.

Apart from the rather incoherent arguments I encountered, the issue that bugged me the most came from those demanding the government to forgive their student loans. Now, I actually happen to have a hefty amount in student loans, but I have never once asked the state to take money from another individual to give to me because I made a poor choice. People forget that they were in no way forced to take on debt. There are literally thousands of schools in the U.S., from in-state schools with resident tuition to community colleges. It is simply irresponsible to go to an unaffordable school and expect someone else to pay it back.

So while I agree with the protesters that our current political system is far from “by the people, for thepeople,” putting more power into the hands of government leads to less personal freedom and more state control. The more personal choices the individual makes, the better. Otherwise we run the risk of losing our rights altogether and submitting to a system no one wants.