Front Page Titles (by Subject) A Clockwork Orange, Freedom, and Coercion - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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A Clockwork Orange, Freedom, and Coercion - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
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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A Clockwork Orange, Freedom, and Coercion
“Behavioral Control and Freedom of Action.” Philosophical Review 87 (April 1978): 225–240.
What sort of unfreedom afflicts a person who undergoes psychological conditioning and Skinnerian behavioral control, such as the character Alex experiences in Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange (1962)? This question is relevant to understanding liberty. Those who feel that coercion involves some special evil must distinguish coercive control from other forms of control (such as offers and manipulation) that do not entail “unfreedom.”
Alex, a violence-prone individual, is subjected to aversive conditioning and “reprogramming” to quell his violence. Scientists compel him to view repeated violent images that they link with nauseous discomfort to wean Alex away from violence. What makes Alex unfree in this process? Alex has no choice but to abhor violence if he wants to avoid unreasonable discomfort.
In effect, this Skinnerian conditioning confronts Alex with a threat. Just as a man held at gunpoint is coerced since his only alternative to compliance is extreme discomfort or death, so Alex is similarly coerced. Thus Alex's actions to avoid images of violence are reasonable, given an unreasonable coercive threat as the alternative. Alex is unfree not because he is literally unable to act otherwise, but because he has no real or reasonable choice.
We can distinguish Alex's case from other cases of control which leave a person fundamentally free. The aversive control of a threat involves unfreedom; any offer or “positive” control does not usurp freedom because the person has a reasonable option to do otherwise. Similarly, manipulation is not equivalent to unfreedom or coercion. In the case of manipulation, one still retains a reasonable option to do otherwise.