Q&A With Jason Talley
Jason Talley heads the Bureaucrash pro-freedom activist network—in Bureaucrash’s own parlance, he is the Crasher-in-Chief. He spoke recently with CEI Planet on his organization’s accomplishments and what he envisions for the future. In March, Bureaucrash and CEI formed a new strategic partnership to combine the strengths of each organization to help spread the ideas of liberty.
CEI Planet: When, how, and why did Bureaucrash start, and how did you get involved with the organization and activism in general?
Jason Talley: Bureaucrash started when various individuals had the same idea and were brought together by the now sadly defunct Henry Hazlitt Foundation (HHF). One group had the resources and the desire to reach young people with the gospel of freedom; the other had a plan on how to do it. HHF had the infrastructure to make it happen. All of the factors resulted in the birth of Bureaucrash in 2001.
I got involved in Bureaucrash-style activism in 2000. My hometown of Gainesville, Florida passed an ordinance that made bars close their doors at 2:00 AM. Gainesville is a college town and as you may know college kids like to drink. My freedom-loving friends and I thought that this would be a great opportunity to show our fellow students that governments are all about denying them choices. We called ourselves the Liberty Project and raised a lot of hell.
When I moved to D.C. in 2001 I decided that I would either start a Liberty Project D.C . or find another group with an identical mission. That’s when I fell in with the Bureaucrash crowd. I started volunteering with them by building websites and participating in counterprotests. In 2002 they hired me to be the Crasher-In-Chief and I’ve been battling the bureaucracy ever since.
CEI Planet: Have you found young people to be more, or less, interested in the ideas of liberty than you expected?
Talley: I’ve always known that most young people distrust the government. The problem is that most people have their own pet issue that they want to get the government involved in. Historically, activism has been pro-state because people look to government to solve problems. Bureaucrash attempts to communicate that government is the problem and that “Real Rebels Don’t Support Centralized State Authority.”
CEI Planet: What are some of the more interesting moments you’ve encountered in your activist travels?
Talley: Crashers have a good ability to sniff out hypocrisy. For example we noticed a “solar powered” ark that was a publicity stunt at a climate change conference by Greenpeace to scare people into supporting state controls to stop global warming. We exposed that the solar panels in front were a prop and that it was actually powered by a fossil fuel-burning generator.
It was also fun to notice the shopping habits of hundreds of union workers who protested the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations in Miami because they feared losing their jobs to foreign competition. Earlier in the day we busted them buying tacky foreign-made merchandise at the local Hard Rock Cafe.
CEI Planet: Where have you found people to be the most receptive, and the least receptive, to Bureaucrash’s message?
Talley: Well, the most receptive would be when we preach to the choir—self-identified classical liberals. Many of them have joined Bureaucrash and have become “crashers.” They are our core, but in order to create the cultural change we want, we realize that we need to reach out to the 70 percent of people who don’t have a political ideology. I’m thrilled to report that we get a fantastic response from these people when we attend rock concerts and other events where our generation spends its free time.
CEI Planet: Could you tell us about some of the more creative ways you have found to get out your message?
Talley: We sponsored a billboard that told people that “politics hurt.”
We released hundreds of balloons at a climate change conference with free market environmental messages.
At the 2003 World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, we sponsored a “fair trade” soda stand that sold cold beverages to sweaty anti-free trade protesters for either a free trade (cheaper) price or a fair trade (more expensive) price. I’ll let you guess which was more popular.
We attended the Green Party convention and had their delegates sign various phony petitions including one that called on the government to “ban corporate farming” to help solve the obesity problem in America.
I think that the best way to get our pro-freedom message out there is to put our ideological adversaries in front of the camera. We attend a lot of protests and interview protesters to record them saying some very revealing things. My favorite subject is dumpster diving or “freeganism.” If this is “the other world that is possible,” then give me the status quo.
CEI Planet: What do you think is currently the most important issue for young people interested in public policy?
Talley: Taxes and Social Security. When you spend nearly half the day working to pay the government you are only half free. I should note that I’d rather that young people get interested in the ideas of individual liberty than in public policy.
CEI Planet: What’s the most important thing young people can do to stand up for the ideals of liberty?
CEI Planet: What do you see as the biggest threat to liberty in the world today?
Talley: Bad ideas—especially the idea that the state can solve all of your problems. This is why Bureaucrash focuses on the culture. We don’t care about voting, getting people elected, or passing legislation. We want to to spread the idea of liberty from one person to another like a virus until everyone is infected.
CEI Planet: Tell us about some of Bureacrash’s successes—any moments you’re particularly proud of?
Talley: There are tons. I’m proud when people defect from statism and actively work within the Bureaucrash Activist Network to promote freedom. I’m proud when we take to the streets and provide a counterpoint to the louder, larger and smellier proponents of the state. On many occasions we steal their thunder despite the fact that they have better funding and fewer ethical concerns. There is nothing that makes me happier than a making a hippie cry.
One particular moment speaks volumes about both Bureaucrash and those whom we oppose. Thirty crashers promoted free market capitalism at an anti-World Bank/International Monetary Fund protest. We staged various forms of subversive activism while we all wore our bright red “Enjoy Capitalism” t-shirts. Throughout the protest anti-capitalists expressed interest in buying our shirts. Well, being good capitalists we sold out of them. So about 50 anti-capitalists paid us for the privilege to walk around in t-shirts that read “bureaucrash.com” on the sleeve and “Enjoy Capitalism” on the front. On a side note why would you bring your wallet to an anti-capitalist protest?
CEI Planet: What do you see in the future for Bureaucrash?
Talley: Our network is getting larger and more active as more and more people realize that they, and not some bureaucrat in a cubicle, are in control of their lives.
We want to continue our growth internationally and have more of a presence on college campuses, which are a target-rich environment to battle the notion of the supremacy of the state.
We also hope to create more web campaigns that focus on the hot issues of the day that our target audience cares about. The nice thing about Bureaucrash is that we are a very agile organization. We will do whatever works to spread our ideas.
Look for us on the front lines of the culture war.