Written by Heather Gwynn
Follow Heather on Twitter at @starlasworld
Austin Coco was born and raised in southern Connecticut. After just four years, Austin graduated cum laude with two degrees from The University of New England with a B.S. in Marine Biology and a B.A. in Political Science. Following college, Austin moved to Maine, where he is currently employed at a fish health diagnostic lab.
In 2016, Austin ran for State Representative in Connecticut. Impressively, Austin got 1.5% of the vote despite the substantial hurdles of getting over 100 signatures in a matter of 2 weeks, juggling his campaign and schooling, and being outspent by his Democrat and Republican opponents. Austin is a member of the National Libertarian Party, he registered right when he turned 18, and he began contributing in March of 2016. He is the Director of Campaigns for the Libertarian Youth Caucus.
In his spare time, Austin enjoys playing computer games, tabletop roleplaying games (like Dungeons and Dragons), board games, and card games. He also likes keeping fish.
Liberty Viral (LV): How did you get introduced to the liberty movement, and when did you get actively involved?
Austin: I was introduced to the liberty movement through the Libertarian Party, honestly. I think I was about 16 or 17, and the 2012 Presidential election was still gearing up. Before this, I had considered myself a Democrat, but I was reevaluating my affiliation because I had reevaluated my beliefs, and felt they did not fit with either the Democrats or the Republicans. I did an online search, and stumbled upon the Libertarian Party, and wanted to look more into it. Seeing and hearing Ron Paul and Gary Johnson really kind of confirmed it for me. I registered as a Libertarian as soon as I turned 18, and got more actively involved in the LP in 2016, running my own campaign and helping as I could with the Johnson/Weld campaign. And now, I’m the Director of Campaigns for the Libertarian Youth Caucus.
LV: What cause is most important to you within the movement?
Austin: I’d say that there are a few causes that are most important to me. I find that ending the war on drugs, changing our foreign policy, and making our government more transparent are three of the causes I would rank as most important currently. That’s not to say I don’t care about addressing the national debt, lowering the tax burden on Americans, or any of the other issues in the movement, though; I just feel that these three are most important to me.
LV: Who is your liberty role model and why?
Austin: That’s a tough one; I’d say I don’t have one specific “role model”. I look up to a lot of liberty-minded folks on certain issues, more than I can probably name. I look up to Larry Sharpe for his ability to bring people together and communicate our message, Gary Johnson for his ability to bring the message of liberty to the average American voter, and Alex Merced for his intent to focus on the positives of a Libertarian solution. Those are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head.
LV: In your opinion, which active Libertarian is most influential, and why?
Austin: Either State Sen. Ebke or Larry Sharpe, probably. Sen. Ebke is developing a strong resume in Nebraska, and is the first in a growing list of state legislators to join the party. In that way, I think she’s a bit of a trendsetter; she’s kind of the original water-tester in that way. Sharpe, on the other hand, has really built a name and a following after his 2016 VP bid, and he seems to be really good at using his momentum to his advantage. In their own ways, I think they’re two of the most influential Libertarians right now.
LV: How would you approach someone who is showing an initial interest in Libertarianism?
Austin: I’d try to discuss some of their concerns, and try to show them how Libertarian solutions can solve their concerns. I’d also try to explain that there’s more than one “type” of Libertarian; we have everyone from Classical Liberal to An-Cap in our party. It’s okay if they disagree with some issues; it’s virtually impossible to fully agree with every political position one person/party makes. So long as they want more freedom, I think that’s a great place to start.
LV: What is the first book you would tell someone who is interested in the LP to read?
Austin: Honestly, I never read books to join the LP; I think this is one of the issues we struggle with as a party sometimes. I understand we’re a party based on philosophy; honestly, that makes our party (in my opinion) a lot easier to defend than many other parties. However, I think we need to find the best way to balance the philosophical end with the political party end. I don’t know if I could think of any books that I would mandate any new prospective member to read. In my opinion, a sense that we need to require that people read books to fully understand our party gets us too bogged down in philosophy; we become less a group of concerned citizens who impact elections and more a group of armchair philosophers. While armchair philosophers might appeal to some, it makes others view us as stuck-up, self-righteous, and self-important.
LV: What do you like most about being involved in the LP?
Austin: I have to say, the people I’ve met through being involved in the LP (and I mean actually, physically met, or at least have been on video chats with them) are some of the greatest people I’ve met. I’m convinced that, if someone was in trouble, a lot of Libertarians would give the shirts off their backs if it came down to it. That’s the kind of spirit that we need in the liberty movement; that’s what makes libertarianism and Libertarianism (as a philosophy and as a party) work. And those people are what I like most about being involved n the LP.
LV: If you could eliminate one Government agency, which would it be and why?
Austin: The DEA, hands down. And as to why, I’d like to quote John Ehrlichmann, Nixon’s Chief Domestic Advisor: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did”. To me, that quote alone is enough to justify ending the DEA.
LV: What plans do you have to grow the party in 2017?
Austin: I plan on working with the LYC and ideally with the LPME to try and organize and support candidates for more local races. I think that we need some candidates building up resumes if we want to do well in the future, and the best way to do that is by starting locally with things like school boards, mayors, planning and zoning, etc. I think that if we organize locally and try to run full slates for offices (as opposed to just running a sole candidate here and there), we would be more likely to win and start building up legitimacy through our elected officials.
LV: What words of advice would you give to other Libertarians on how to get involved in the party, locally and nationally?
Austin: Get as involved as you feel comfortable getting, first of all. Secondly, politics are local, and you are much more likely to be known in your local community. Third, behind every successful candidate is an extensive, hardworking campaign team. Any campaign is a team effort; if you want to launch a campaign, make sure you have a strong base of volunteers.
LV: Thanks for being so candid Austin, It’s refreshing to see such a young man so dedicated to liberty. Now let’s lighten it up a bit, and answer a few fun questions. What is your favorite book?
Austin: Probably something by Kurt Vonnegut, honestly.
LV: What is the last book you read?
Austin: I’m actually rereading Welcome to the Monkey House (Kurt Vonnegut) right now.
LV: What is your favorite genre of music?
Austin: Rock and Roll (60s-90s)
LV: Which band do you think has the most libertarian message?
Austin: Depends on the specific issue: if we’re talking war, then probably Pink Floyd. If we’re talking property rights, probably Charlie Daniels Band.
LV: If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?
Austin: South Dakota. They know what they did.
LV: What are your thoughts on “The Pussification of America?”
Austin: I think a lot of what we call the “pussification”, or “snowflakes”, comes down to being in a political echo chamber. This is not restricted to one party/group of people; rather, I’d argue that every group has their share of members in an echo chamber. We need to hear people (and I mean hear, not just listen to respond), understand them, and rationally discuss ideas if we want to stop this.