Chaplin’s ‘A King in New York’

This clip is from Charlie Chaplin’s film “A King in New York” (1957).

For those who didn’t know, Chaplin was exiled from America for being a suspected state communist. He was more of a traditional anarchist, the variety that shrugged monopolistic political systems of oppression for voluntary rules and interactions.

The kid playing the anarchist child of communist parents is Chaplin’s son in real life, Michael Chaplin. You can see the child wording Chaplin’s lines to remember his own cues in many of his scenes.

“A King” echoes what Chaplin was going through in that period of his life, losing relevancy in Hollywood and being exiled for his beliefs, as communist paranoia was rampant during that period. He used this movie plot as a way to poke fun at the political, social, and economic problems that were overshadowed by the paranoia of the Red Scare.

After reading a little more about Chaplin, you can see that his work was heavily influenced by his ideas about governments, social systems, and the disparities among the classes that occurred from oppressive policies. He was obviously influenced by Marx and the labor theory of value when reading his thoughts on the failures of industry that eventually formed some of his economic and political biases. He was right in his ideas about the errors of corporatism (what he attributed as capitalism) and the oppressive monopolistic systems of force that reign over certain territories and destroy the autonomy of the individual. You can see the influence of these ideas throughout most of his films.

While I appreciate Chaplin’s comedic antagonism toward political and economic forms of oppression, I think he was conflating the ideas of the freed market (and all that philosophically entails) with corporatism, which is actually modeled after monopolistic government hierarchy and leads to the propping up of the upper class, destroying autonomy of the worker, while spawning planned obsolescence, consumerism, and waste that are often pointed out as the problem of free markets. This is what leads to a call for more government-corporate collusion into the narrowing field of voluntary exchange and is the basis for which many reject free markets altogether for more collectivized economic theories and political systems. So, people end up blaming the market for the problems the sanctioned and sponsored by corporatism.