How did this website come about?
Hi, I’m Joshua Steimle, and I’m a husband, father, son, brother, artist, writer, voracious reader, skater, triathlete, marathoner, prospective business PhD student, Mormon, and…a recent and hesitant convert to libertarian thought.
It happened innocently enough. When I was 15 back in 1990 I clearly remember walking into the front room of my parents’ home where my dad’s radio was. My dad had the radio on and he said “Listen to this.” It was the Rush Limbaugh show. I remember listening and then looking at my dad with an open mouth that turned into a smile and saying “I can’t believe this guy is saying this stuff!”
Now, as a 15-year old in 1990 I had never heard the term political correctness. I knew my parents were Republicans and had voted for Reagan, but I didn’t know what that implied. I had never heard the word “conservative”. Although I knew very well the principles and ideals my parents believed in, such as honesty, hard work, etc., it was more from their examples then their words that I knew these things. I have no memories of talking about politics with my parents prior to that moment. And yet I knew three things; 1) what Rush was saying at that moment was true, 2) that I and my dad were on the same page about what Rush was saying, and 3) that someone, somewhere, was also listening to Rush and was very, very offended.
You’ll probably assume I was home schooled, wore a tie every day, enjoyed reading economic tomes, and was generally a misfit compared to normal kids. Well, I was a bit of a misfit, but no, I was very much a product of public schools, I only wore ties to church on Sunday, I didn’t even know what economics was, and I spent most of my time skateboarding, drawing, reading sci-fi and fantasy books, and listening to punk rock or any other music that was on the skateboarding videos I watched over and over every day. With the exception of one straightedge friend, most of my friends smoked pot and drank on weekends, and would soon get sucked into the burgeoning rave scene of nearby Los Angeles. I thought joining the military was for losers who couldn’t do anything else, and I planned on being an artist because I didn’t like math and I didn’t know of anything else I could possibly want to do, other than be a pro skater but I knew deep down I wasn’t good enough for that to ever happen. The point is, from the outside I was hardly the type of kid you would expect to become a big fan of Rush Limbaugh.
What I was on the inside didn’t quite match what was on the inside. I read books like nobody else. Sure, it was mostly sci-fi and fantasy, but there are valuable lessons to be learned from works of fiction. I read several books each week. Sometimes I would read a 300-400 page book in one day. And I was a thinker. I liked observing people. I liked observing myself and trying to understand why I did the things I did. And having grown up in a household of the Mormon faith, which I was not inclined to rebel against but rather believed in quite strongly, I had certain ideas that matched up very well with what I heard on Rush’s show. And although I didn’t know it at the time, I was a hardcore idealist.
Over the next few years I read Rush’s books, watched his somewhat lackluster TV show, and enjoyed listening to his radio program whenever possible. I didn’t know a single peer who listened to Rush, and I kind of liked it that way. At the time skateboarders were not popular, and I was one of two in my high school of 2,000 or so students. After being a skater and a Mormon, being a conservative fit well into the persona I eagerly cultivated of being a rebel outcast.
When I was 19 I left home and college to serve as a full-time missionary of the LDS Church for two years in Brazil. I remember the feeling of relief I felt being away from thoughts of politics, political correctness, the LA riots, feminazis, etc. I had become a bit of a contentious conservative, and welcomed the opportunity to be in a country where nobody cared about race or political correctness or any of that stuff. And frankly, it was nice to be away from Rush for two years. Those years in Brazil were the hardest of my life up to that point, and yet the most peaceful.
When I returned I started listening to Rush again, but it was a hobby. It didn’t extend so far as to actually induce me to change anything in my life. I had also switched from wanting to be an artist to wanting to be a business man…of some sort. My eyes had yet to be opened up to the possibilities. But to be short, I graduated in 2002 from BYU with a masters of information systems management, at which point I had already started my own business which I still run today, and had gotten married. And life went on without much to mention here for the next several years.
Fast forward to 2007. I still was listening to Rush, and Hannity occasionally, although I didn’t like his show so much because he would never let anybody who disagreed with him get their point across, plus it seemed like 80% of the show was advertising. I voted for Bush both times and thought he was a good guy, although I couldn’t quite figure out that Medicare Part D thing. Weren’t conservatives supposed to not spend money? It seemed like Bush was spending a lot. But I brushed that thought under the rug, and never even thought to doubt the righteousness of the wars in the Middle East, the Patriot Act, or anything else enacted under Bush. Then one day I happened to turn the radio and heard some guy named Glenn Beck talking.
My first impression of Glenn Beck was that he was a silly idiot. He was talking about some book a friend of his had written and the five minutes of the show I listened to were uninteresting. I turned it off.
A month or two later someone asked me if I had heard of Glenn Beck. I told them I had, and that I thought he had a pretty lame show. “Did you know he’s a Mormon?” they asked.
“What?! Oh great…that’s just what we need.”
I don’t recall listening to Beck again for several months. But in that same year, my wife and I, who had not been able to have a successful pregnancy yet, decided to adopt, and the adoption agency we went to, which is run by the social services agency of the LDS Church, required that we attend an adoption conference as part of our qualifying to adopt through them.
Guess who the keynote speaker at the conference was? Glenn Beck. Turns out he had adopted a child through LDS Social Services, just as we were about to, and given his rising profile, he was a natural fit. There were perhaps 300 people attending the conference, and so we sat within tomato-throwing distance of Beck and his wife Tania as they spoke about their experiences adopting. In case you’re wondering when Beck turned into a blabbering crybaby it was certainly before 2007 because he already had no shame at this point. The man must have been seriously dehydrated by the time he finished.
But all kidding aside, the Beck I saw and heard at that conference was not the Beck I had heard during the five minutes of radio time I had heard a few months earlier. The man I saw was sincere, honest, sensitive, caring, loving, and willing to be vulnerable in front of perfect strangers. I decided to give his radio show another chance.
The next time I listened to Beck I heard something completely different than the first time. Apparently the first time I listened he was in one of his joking moods and was just having a good time with Stu. I had assumed this was representative of the entire show. The next time I listened I heard someone who was sincerely afraid for his country. Perhaps a bit more afraid than I thought was healthy. In fact, the Beck I now heard sounded downright paranoid. Rush made fun of liberals, and sure, he said they were dangerous, but Beck was taking it to a new level.
But I kept listening, and the more I listened, the more it made sense. I wasn’t entirely convinced Beck wasn’t crazy, but whether or not he was crazy, some of the stuff he was saying clicked with my own experiences and observations. And he was towing the Republican line. He was admitting Bush had made mistakes. He was talking smack about the Patriot Act. He was saying that both parties were tricking us and taking advantage of us. This was different. What most impressed me was that he seemed to be progressing in his thoughts and opinions–he was willing to be wrong, admit it, and learn from it. And he read a lot of books.
Around this same time, I had started doing triathlons, and whereas when I skateboard I enjoy having my iPod shuffle and listening to music, music didn’t cut it when I was out on a two-hour run. So I started listening to audiobooks. This satisfied an unmet hunger that had been growing in intensity for several years, since it had been a long time since I had time to sit down and read a printed book. As I trained for an Ironman race, I had 20+ hours per week to listen to books, and I found myself like a man possessed, listening to everything I could get my hands on, which at this time was mostly more sci-fi and fantasy, but I had also become enamored with biographies, and had listened to John Adams by David McCullough as well as others.
As I listened to Beck and he started mentioning books, I started reading them. Then, as 2008 rolled around, I started becoming more politically aware, if not involved. As I saw the primaries narrow the field down to McCain and Obama as the top contending candidates, I thought “Is this really the best America has to offer? An angry old man who can’t decide which party he wants to be a part of, and a radical liberal guy who has never run anything in his life, and who doesn’t seem to have anything going for him other than that he can give a good speech?” I kept reading more books and now I dropped the sci-fi and fantasy and was mostly reading books about politics, history, and economics. And I knew that something was wrong in the world, and that our politicians weren’t being honest. But I still felt very ignorant.
As the elections neared, I was a bit enamored of Romney, but of course he was out of the running. I knew I couldn’t vote for Obama, but I sure didn’t want to vote for McCain either. Around this time I went to lunch with some business associates, and one of them told me I should look into Ron Paul. I didn’t know anything about this Ron Paul guy except that his supporters put ugly banners on freeway overpasses and he was calling for a “revolution” or something crazy like that, and I told my associate that. He cheerfully said “Yeah, but you should still check him out. Just be careful, once you go down the rabbit hole you never come out!” I didn’t look into Ron Paul before the elections, but when the day came, I voted for Ron Paul as a way of voting against McCain and Obama.
As Obama started implementing his policies in 2009 I started become more concerned. This guy was no Bill Clinton. This guy had a plan, and he was going to get it through one way or another, whether the people liked it or not. I read more and more books about the founding of the United States, about economics, about politics, and the more I read, the more I couldn’t figure out how we got to where we are from where we were 200 years ago. But I was having a grand time reading and learning, and started another website, you could call it the older sister to this website, at ThePresidentsBooks.com so I could share my thoughts on what I was reading.
Then one day I heard about Ron Paul’s book End the Fed. “The Fed? What’s that? Oh, the Federal Reserve…yeah, I’ve heard of that, are they the guys who print the money? No, wait, that’s the Treasury, the Fed regulates banks or something.” That was about how much I knew about the Federal Reserve. But it sounded interesting, so I put it on my iPod and read it.
My first exposure to Ron Paul did not stun me or cause me to see bright lights, but I found the book interesting. Interesting enough that I decided to read his other book The Revolution. That was eye-opening. As I read I realized I didn’t know a thing about our government. Suddenly many of the questions I had lingering in my mind were answered, and things I had never considered before as being reasonable to question were thrown out the window. I found my opinion changing on things from military spending to the war on drugs, and the one thought that kept coming up over and over again was “This is the type of philosophy that both conservatives and liberals could get behind, because it’s all about freedom.”
That was the rabbit hole. From there, I discovered LewRockwell.com, Mises.org, ConnorBoyack.com, Austrian economics, and in mid-2010 I started gorging myself. As of today, February 15th, I have read several libertarian books like For a New Liberty, Defending the Undefendable, and What Has Government Done to Our Money, and I have listened to ever single of Lew Rockwell’s podcasts. I’m now familiar with libertarian thinkers like Mises, Hayek, Peter Schiff, Jim Rogers, etc. I understand why libertarians don’t like Milton Friedman, even though his books made so much sense to me when I first read them. Not content to just read and listen, I have spent many hours debating libertarian thought amongst friends and associates.
As far as libertarianism goes, I’m mostly sold. But not completely. My introduction to libertarianism has brought a lot of answers, but a lot of questions as well. While certain principles are plainly true to me, such as the non-aggression axiom, how it gets implemented in every situation brings up countless questions. And that’s just the start of things. And so I created this website. In part to espouse those beliefs I have, in part to ask questions where I remain in ignorance but am at least aware of my ignorance, and in part to expose those areas of ignorance I possess of which I am not even aware.
If I appear to have strongly held beliefs that will never change, as people have told me I do, you’re flat out wrong. The issues upon which my mind has been changed in the last year alone are legion. I will hold firmly to my principles, but I have very much changed my mind on what holding to my principles means in practice. I hope I can convince others I am right where I am right, and where I am wrong I hope others will convince me of the errors of my ways. Just because I argue passionately about something doesn’t necessarily mean I believe it, nor that if I do that my mind can’t be changed. I just find that arguing passionately about something brings everything out in the open where it can be seen for what it is. If I am wrong, I do not care, except that I wish to find it out as quickly as possible so that I might learn what is right. So please, join in the friendly fight, and let’s learn together.
– Joshua James Steimle, 15 February, 2011