Anarchists today are a far different breed than the anarchists of the past. Traditionally, anarchists have been defined not only by their opposition to government, but also to capitalism, private ownership, wage systems, and any perceived form of hierarchy. From the American Christian communes to the black blocs of the 20th century, support for social and material equality have always been present to some degree.

But recently, in just a few short years, the face of anarchism has changed. Unlike the syndicalists of the past, the current standard-bearers of statelessness, the anarcho-capitalists and their host of libertarian front organizations, are anything but egalitarians. The modern libertarian anarchist, as opposed to viewing equality as man’s natural state, or even something to strive toward, instead sees it as an aberration, a myth. Rather than abolish private property, the anarcho-capitalist seeks to strengthen it. And while libertarians do often quote identifiably left-leaning figures such as Frederic Bastiat and Lysander Spooner, their influence pales in comparison to the much more right-wing philosophies of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand.

So what caused this switch from red to gold? One possible answer is that individualism, another element common to early anarchism, proved a stronger force than its egalitarian collectivist tendencies. This is especially true in the United States, where the traditional culture is defined by the homestead, and not the village. Another, more obvious explanation is that human equality is at odds with basic human nature. After all, even the Spanish red-anarchists possessed an identifiable leadership structure. Attempting to deny the existence of a natural and unavoidable hierarchy would ultimately doom syndicalism to be either abandoned in favor of a more realistic anarchist movement, or be subsumed by Leftist statism. Put simply, anarchists must recognize hierarchy, and choose to pursue either a society of free association and inequality, or socialism.

Yes, freedom and equality are incompatible goals. If we accept that individuals are in any way different, it follows that they are unequal—and that to make them equal would require control over society on an unprecedented scale. Inequality is manifested not just in the outward appearances of creatures, but also their natural talents, their proficiency in certain tasks, their raw intellectual capacity, and their environment. Although evolution states that no creature, out of context, is inherently better than another, one creature will nonetheless fare more successfully than another in that environment. Darwinism requires winners and losers.

But even if we were to convince ourselves that humans were exempt from Darwin’s universal laws, and that we are each born to a tabula rasa, we would still be faced with the issue of environmental conditioning. Everything around us, from our parentage to the landscape, shapes us into who we are. To ensure human equality, the experiences of individuals would have to be standardized. Perfect conformity would require perfect totalitarianism. Perhaps this explains the popularity of mass social engineering, particularly in this age of unchallenged Leftism.

Conservatives failed to stem the tide of socialism precisely because they ceded the moral high ground to their opposition. First, they proclaimed that Communism was “good in theory, bad in practice,” thus granting legitimacy to egalitarianism and providing ammunition for cultural Marxists. Second, conservatives championed “equality of opportunity.” However, they did not realize that equality of opportunity necessitates equality of a material starting point, affirming the Left’s “equality of results” before personal merit even entered the equation.

There is nothing to suggest that equality amongst humans is inherently virtuous (or possible, for that matter), and all attempts to achieve it have resulted only in poverty and instability. The modern liberal state has based its entire existence on the inversion of capitalism’s normal hierarchy. Producers are taxed, while parasites are compensated. Private enterprise is choked by regulations while failed government cronies are bailed out. Success is punished. Poverty is subsidized. The pyramid has been turned on its head; a mass of dependents now crushing the taxpaying class. This arrangement should not and will not last.

For a healthy society to exist, a natural and sustainable hierarchy must be established, sans the meddling of parasitic bureaucracies. Property must be defended, and those whose work the market deems more valuable must be rewarded. Individuals must be allowed to rise to their highest rank, without being shackled to those who would rather be “equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” We must understand our rational self-interest, and denounce the egalitarian theology espoused by the Left. But the first and most important step is recognizing that we are each different, and therefore suited to different lifestyles. Thankfully, modern anarchists appear not only willing to admit that humans vary in their lives’ stations, but are also willing to embrace it. With this vision in mind, we can plot a realistic course to a free and prosperous society.

Seamus Light’s essay won third prize in 2014 in the Second Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. He is a 2D Animation major in his third year at SVA. He is also a former Marketing and Economics major turned animator and contra-marxista.