Front Page Titles (by Subject) Human Individuality and Autonomy - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1981, vol. 4, No. 1
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Human Individuality and Autonomy - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1981, vol. 4, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Human Individuality and Autonomy
“The Shape of the Future: American Version.” In The Illusion of Technique: A Search for Meaning in a Technological Civilization. Garden City: Anchor Press/Doubleday. 1979, chapter 15.
The best argument for freedom is to consider the horror of our lives without it. In a perverse way, determinist behavioral scientists such as B.F. Skinner have helped us see what kind of society results from denying free will and implementing determinism: a bland, planned, authoritarian and socially engineered “utopia.” Skinner's Walden II and Beyond Freedom and Dignity reveal the emerging authoritarian political and metaphysical ideology behind the modern “technology of behavior” that would eradicate the “free and autonomous individual.”
Skinner's simplistic and planned reformation of human psychology achieved through the ploys of conditioning and manipulative technique is blind to the hidden depths of the human soul and its need to autonomously condition itself in order to achieve free and responsible individuality. We humans have the capacity to provide our “own carrot and stick, whereas the donkey has to accept what his master offers.” Our capacity for self-initiated change and self-conditioning invalidates Skinner's determinist image of man as a passive victim of conditioned habits. “And one of the most powerful levels we can have for changing ourselves is this very idea of the autonomy of the individual person.” Our self-improving human consciousness, our sense of rebellion, and our striving to realize our higher possibilities are palpable facts of experience which invalidate the behaviorists' fatal determinism.
A study of the dull and jejune lives led by the inmates in the Skinnerian utopia, Walden II, reveals how soul-deadening are the consequences of applying technology to control human behavior. Gone is danger, excitement, competitiveness, creativity, suffering, and passion. In place of these humanizing experiences, we find a controlled safe, and bland environment, a “big summer hotel.” Hidden from view are the elite and parasitic class of behavioral psychologists who would banish worry, struggle, and novelty from the individual's psyche.
A benchmark to use in measuring America's cultural degeneration into an authoritarian mentality—its hostility to diversity and human individuality—is to compare Harvard's Skinner with the earlier Harvard psychologist, William James (1842–1910). James's admonition can serve as a warning to the modern behavioral scientists who would impoverish the richness of human individuality:
Man's chief difference from the brutes lies in the exuberant excess of his subjective propensities—his preeminence over them simply and solely in the number and in the fantastic and unnecessary character of his wants, physical, moral, aesthetic, and intellectual…Prune down his extravagance, sober him, and you undo him.
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