Saturday, November 17, 2012

Two Ways of Life

This is an interesting photograph, while we are talking about virtue and purpose yet again. It is by Swedish-English photographer Oscar Gustav Rejlander, and was assembled in 1857, near the dawn of photography.


It is from the Met's current exhibition "Faking it: Manipulated photographs before Photoshop." According to the Museum description of the picture:

The Two Ways of Life was one of the most ambitious and controversial photographs of the nineteenth century. The picture is an elaborate allegory of the choice between vice and virtue, represented by a bearded sage leading two young men from the countryside onto the stage of life. The rebellious youth at left rushes eagerly toward the dissolute pleasures of lust, gambling, and idleness; his wiser counterpart chooses the righteous path of religion, marriage, and good works.

It is not a single photograph, though. As I said above, it was asssembled, rather than capturing a single moment. The camera lies.

Because it would have been impossible to capture a scene of such extravagant complexity in a single exposure, Rejlander photographed each model and background section separately, yielding more than thirty negatives, which he meticulously combined into a single large print.

So it is a fascinating early example of a disjunction between photography and strict reported truth. The rest of the exhibition is excellent, and you should see it if you are in New York.

It is also an example of the leaden overwrought nature of Victorian morality. It is difficult to look at the picture without thinking of it as excessively didactic and mawkish, the kind of thing that gives any talk of virtue or aspiration a bad name, at least to our tastes. Perhaps one of the defining features of our age is a taste for irony or morals lightly worn (with a few exceptions). How do you ever talk about aspiration or virtue without seeming didactic or hypocritical?

The press and internet is full of the downfall of CIA Director David Patraeus, who seemed just a bit too perfect. It is very difficult to present the virtues as aspirations, something to aim for, rather than as empty didactic shells.

The two ways of life may be true in practice. We face choices in what we do, and our choices are not always good ones. But it is something that we often have to discover, rather than be told.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Against Fairness?

I have often talked about fairness and impartiality on this blog, such as here and here. This philosopher, Stephen T. Asma, boldly argues we overestimate fairness in a new book, and writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Favortism is not the same as prejudice, he says.

I want to argue something counterintuitive here. Contrary to all this received wisdom, open-mindedness is actually compatible with favoritism and bias. ...

These recent findings undermine the old assumption that favoritism automatically entails bigotry toward outgroups. Intergroup relationships and judgments, even among kids, are much more complex than we thought. ..

In short, favoritism or bias toward your group is not intrinsically racist, sexist, or closed-minded. Privileging your tribe does not render you negative or bigoted toward those outside your tribe. And to top it off, we're now beginning to understand the flexible nature of our ingroup favoritism—it doesn't have to be carved along bloodlines, or race lines, or ethnic lines. [..]

Young people in our schools are repeatedly exposed to a bogus association between unbiased equality for all and open-mindedness.

He argues you can favor your own without being inequitable or biased against others.

My favorites are not the best or most accomplished at this or that. They are not virtuoso human beings. It's my sheer affection for them, my ability to relate to them, and my history with them, that raise their status above other people. Love trumps fairness every time. It says: I don't care if other people are more deserving than you, you're mine and that's why I give you more than anyone else. Ethical philosophies of every stripe—egalitarian, utilitarian, Rawlsian, cosmopolitan—have tried to level people with a grid of uniform impartiality, but our favorites cannot be encapsulated in the grid. They loom too large in our moral geography.

So Asma here is arguing here that very basic human motivations, like treating your family or close friends as more deserving, still has some legitimacy. On one level, it is remarkable that one has to argue for it. It is hardly counterintuitive. We have let our ethical universalism get quite distant from common sense.

It is also very striking just how strong the effort to teach against "bias" has become, even in preschool. It seems the education establishment cares about little else.

It is fascinating - and beautifully observed - when he how he talks about the default instinct of kids to argue for what they want, selfishly, in terms of appeals to fairness. Adults are often no different. Invocations of fairness are often used as self-interested weapons.

What happens, as Asma notes, is that many of the people held up as heroes of impartiality, such as Susan B. Anthony or Rosa Parks, have actually been fighting for inclusion or the interests of their own in-group, not general impartiality. It may be justified, but it is rarely impartial. (And affirmative action is of course deliberately about favoring some groups, rather than impartiality. The last thing many on the left want is race-blindness.)

Many of the great achievements of the last few hundred years, such as reducing the prevalence of nepotism, rely on impersonal kinds of impartiality. Modern bureaucracy in essence relies on impartiality. But impartiality is not and cannot be the whole of morality, as I've argued before. An overemphasis on impartiality and neutrality causes much of the rest of our ethical instincts to shrivel up.

As I say, you may need a referee to play a game. But the game is not all just about the referee. You have to have some goals as well.


Aristotle: Citizenship and Constitutions

We're talking about Aristotle's The Politics , starting here, because it's useful to go back to first principles and get a long view of our political and economic problems.


One matter which has attracted attention in social democratic circles in the last few years is the notion of citizenship. (I have a recollection of a long discussion in David Held's Models of Democracy, but haven't read it in a while.)

In general, however, our conception of citizenship is now very confused and unclear. It mostly tends towards simply residence, or miminal civic inclusion, rather than any common ethnicity or values or beliefs. Multiculturalism has become the ideal on the left, as well as sectional rather than national identity. We have had an immense shift in the last fifty years from ideas of national self-determination and decolonization to purely civic membership, with no obligations except to obey the law and pay taxes.

Aristotle ( who spent much of his life as a foreign resident in Athens) is adamant that citizenship is not just residence. Instead,

What effectively distinguhes the citizen proper from all others is his participation in giving judgment and in holding office. p169

A citizen must be capable of meaningfully participating in deliberation. So is the good man and the good citizen the same thing? Not quite. For one thing, it will depend on the kind of consitution a citizen lives under.

Not that good ruling and good obedience are the same virtue - only that the good citizen must have the knowledge and ability both to rule and to be ruled. That is what we mean by the virtue of a citizen - understanding the governing of free men from both points of view. p182

You cannot, on this perspective , really be a citizen by simply asserting rights or claims against the whole, rather than also seeing the perspective of those who must meet those rights and claims and comsequences.

And the virtue of the ruler and the citizen are not the same. The virtue of the ruler is mostly practical wisdom, or phronesis, which is neither theoretical nor technocratic, but skilled ability to judge particular situations. The virtues of the private citizen are wider.

Strikingly from our perspective, as a rule he also believed anyone who works as skilled craftsman or works for wages for others cannot be a citizen...

for it is quite impossible, while living the life of a mechanic or hireling, to occupy oneself as virtue demands. p184

That perhaps vanished as a sensible view with the increased scale of organizations with the industrial revolution. But the notion that one must have time and energy to reflect still stands, perhaps.

The common good

He then separates good from bad constitutions. The notion of a good constitution is very clear:

It is clear that those constitutions which aim at the common good are right, as being in accord with absolute justice; while those which aim only at the good of the rulers are wrong. p189

Looking to simpy private advantage, "be it of the one or the few or the mass" is a deviation, when the interests of one section of the community take precedence over the others.

This has contemporary relevance as well. Seeing politics as simply a matter of demographics, of sectional interest and redistribution and faction, obscures and denies the common good. I think this is where the Democrats, as a coalition of minority and special interest groups, usually go wrong, and where the GOP is joining them with its increasingly libertarian tone. Assembling enough sectional coalition elements to get to 50.1% is not the same as advocating for a view of the common good.

It also prefigures much contemporary analysis, such as the notion of "inclusion" in Why Nations Fail. Small groups often focus on dividing a small collective pie to their own advantage, instead of making the pie bigger.

Of course, there can be different views of the common good. But you need some conception of the good. And you need to go beyond the shallow Pareto optimality of welfare economics to have any real insight into the common good. We will come back to this later.

So Aristotle distinguishes six kinds of rule: monarchy, and its deviant twin tyranny; aristocracy (in the old sense of rule by the aristoi, or the best and most virtuous men, not traditional European landed upper classes) and its deviation, oligarchy, typically the rule of the few or the wealthy; and polity, which is "political control exercised by the mass of the populace in the common interest" versus its somewhat deviant twin, democracy, which is rule only "for the benefit of the men without means." , ie the poor. p190


Expert Judgement

Although he is against giving power to those with little or no time to reflect or use their reason, he is nonethless very supportive of wider participation. Almost 2300 years before the rise of the middle classes in Europe, Aristotle emphasizes wide deliberation and the importance of the middle sort. For one thing, a wider group often makes better decisions.

For it is possible that the many, no one of whom taken singly is a sound man, may yet, taken all together, be better than the few, not individually but collectively, in the same way that a feast to which all contribute is better than one supplied at one man's expense. p202

Interestingly, this is a little different from 'many chefs spoil the broth' or the cult of leadership. This too prefigures what we find today, such as the greater accuracy of aggregate economic forecasts that we were looking at the other day.

He has a dietary analogy: it is actually preferable to include "rougher" classes in discussion with the powerful:

By thus mixing with the better sort, they render good service in their states, in something like the way that a combination of coarse foods with refined renders the whole diet more nutrtious than a small amount of the latter. p204

So, says Aristotle, democracy is "the most moderate of the deviations" p239. And polity, the ideal, " is a mixture of oligarchy and democracy." p259

Similar comsiderations apply to experts, according to this author who spent twenty years in the original Academy. There are some things in which they should be judged by their peers. But in others, users are much better judges than expert producers.

.. that provided the mass of the people is not too slave-like, each indiviudal will indeed be a worse judge than the experts, but collectively they will be better, or at any rate no worse. Secondly, there are tasks of which the actual doer will be neither the best nor the only judge, cases in which even those who do not posses the skill form an opinion on the fnished product. .. So too the user of a rudder , the helmsman, is a better judge of it than the carpenters who made itl and it is the diner not the cook that pronounces upon the merits of a dinner. p205

This reminds me of William F. Buckley's assertion that "I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University ."

Expert judgement has its limits, according to one of the first experts.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Heightening the contradictions?

There is going to be a lot of Conservative soul searching in the next few years. Here is one piece in Forbes about Charles Kesler, the editor of the Claremont Review of Books. (H/t RealClear Politics)

As a result, liberalism, as well as the United States, finds itself at a historic crossroad.

President Obama’s decision to double down aggressively on the reach and cost of big government, just as the European model of social democracy is hitting the skids, provides the perfect opportunity for conservatives to exploit. His course makes the problems of liberalism worse and more urgent, as though he is eager for a crisis. Sooner or later, the crisis will come. If the people remain attached to their government and laws, and American statesmen do their part, the country may yet take the path leading up from liberalism.

Of course, this is very like the old Marxist idea of "heightening the contradictions" itself. It is just as likely to be reaching for straws of consolation in the circumstances. "The worse, the better" is not much of a response because it is indistinguishable from passivity and defeat.

One thing which struck me in the article, though, was this quote from Lyndon Johnson:

President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society represents the third great Progressive wave. With the liberal label firmly in place, the goal was now qualitative – to rescue liberalism from the materialism of the New Deal and to empower government to add meaning to the lives of the average person. The Great Society would end poverty and assure abundance for all. But, that was no longer enough. As Johnson explained: “’But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destination where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.’”

This was surely a forlorn hope, but it is interesting he expressed it as such. (It might be useful to read Robert Caro on this, so I might get to that sometime). Liberalism had a conception of "the meaning of our lives" which largely extended to equality, and has trouble seeing anything beyond that. The good life is impartial neutrality and redistribution. And that's it.


Aristotle: Household, Wealth, Common Property

We're talking about Aristotle's The Politics , starting here.

The household

The first few chapters, on the household, do seem like a relic of a distant 350 BC, and are best hurried through. It is hard to relate to the small farms or city households of ancient Athens or the Troad. This household management, oikonomia , is however the origin of the term "economic."

Most objectionately to modern readers, he believes some people lack the capacity for deliberative reason, so that they are slaves by nature ( although ancient slavery was not racially based). He also takes for granted strict division between the sexes. The head of the household must have moral virtue in its entirety; others, such as women, children, and slaves, in lesser degree.

He was perhaps more enlightened than many of his time , but he was of his time. He took for granted that, as a matter of practical necessity, some had to labor, not least because they were not suited to do anything else.

Of course, for us automation has removed much of the raw mechanical labor from life, although the economy still has an insatiable appetite for cheap labor in many agricultural and service industries. And we more optimistic about people's capacity for reason (although sometimes I wonder, if you see any episode of Access Hollywood or other celebrity glop).

What he says also entails one expects much more from the free, independent head of household in moral terms than children or servants or dependents. We still believe that of children, of course. Perhaps the capacity for moral virtue differs, and that is something we set aside in contemporary debate.


He talks about the acquisition of property, and the definition of wealth. Wealth, properly thought of, is a tool:

Solon in one of his poems said "no bound is set on riches for men." But there is a limit, as in the other skills; for none of them have any tools which are unlimited in size or number, and wealth is a collection of tools for use in the administration of a household or state. (P 79 in the Penguin edition).

Of course, one can acquire goods without limit, but the function of the household is to use them.

The reason why some people get this notion into their heads may be that they are eager for life but not the good life; so, desire for life being unlimited, they desire an unlimited amount of what enables life to go on. Others again, while aiming at the good life, seek what is conducive to the pleasures of the body. So, as this too appears to depend on the possession of property, their whole activity centers to business. For where enjoyment consists in excess, men look for that skill which produces the excess that is enjoyed. (p85)

This of course is still a live political issue - is there a point where we have enough? How much is enough? (the title of a book I looked out a few weeks ago). It is also very much linked to questions of environmentalism. There is a very old tradition which sees the answer to human happiness not in prosperity and abundance but in limiting human desires. That ancient ascetic creed can surface today in those who want us to abandon growth and return to a significantly simpler lifestyle.

I think the answer is it is almost impossible to define what "enough" is, or what wealth itself is, without some conception of the good life and flourishing. Seeing wealth primarily as a tool for particular purposes, something to use and activate, rather than a pile of gold or financial assets is productive. It can be hard to transform financial assets into a flourishing, happy, secure life, as many celebrity divorcees or high-profile occupational burnouts know.

Aristotle also somewhat disapproves of trade and charging interest, "since it arises not from nature but from men's gaining from each other", views which were to still resonate late into the modern period, and underpinned nobility looking down on the merchant classes. We have seen this before, (including a quote from the Politics) in the deep suspicion of many religious and philosophical traditions of the institution of money.

But pragmatist that he is, he can have a shrewd appreciation of business. Thales of Miletus, he says, was criticized for making little money from philosophy. So one year he cornered the olive oil presses on his island just before a good harvest.

He made a lot of money, and so demonstrated that it is easy for philosophers to become rich, if they want to; but that is not their object in life. .. the principle can be applied more generally: the way to make money is to get, if you can, monopoly for yourself. (P90).

And that is also why we have to be very careful of monopolies and businsss restrictions and regulation sometimes.

It is also an illustration of how most ideas in the humanities and social sciences are rediscoveries or permutations of much older themes. Michael Porter would advise the way to profitability is to build barriers to entry (Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors). Warren Buffett looks for businesses with a "moat."

Against common property

Aristotle then turns to the state and comparative politics, looking at a number of constitutions including Athens, Sparta, Crete and Carthage.

He has a modern skepticism for Plato's notion of communal ownership or modern socialist property, not to mention sharing wives and children:

The greater the number of owners, the less respect for common property. People are much more careful of their personal possessions than of those owned communally; they exercise care over common property only insofar as they are personally affected. Other reasons apart, the thought that someone else is looking after it tends to make them careless of it. P108

That is also true for organizations, which is why assigning responsibility and accountability is often so important.

What was later called "to each according to his needs" is also met with skepticism by Aristotle.

For if the work done and the benefits accrued are equal, well and good; but if not, there will inevitably be ill-feeling between those who get a good income without doing much work and those who work harder but get no corresponding extra benefit. To live together and share in any human concern is hard enough to achieve at the best of times, and such a state of affairs makes it doubly hard. P114

This has a very contemporary ring about it, no doubt because it is such a timeless human response. So common ownership of property has inherent difficulties. At least, he says, existing laws are strengthened by familiarity.

Far better is the present system - provided that it has the added attraction of being a matter of habit and of being controlled by sound laws.

Even if you could fix a level of common possessions, and achieve absolute material equality,

to fix a moderate amount for all, that would still be no use: for it is more necessary to equalize appetites than possesions, and that can only be done by adequate education under the laws. ... And civil strife is caused by inequality in distinctions no less than inequality in property, though for opposite reasons on each side; that is to say, the many are incensed by the inequality in property, whereas more accomplished people are incensed if honors are shared equally, for then, as the tag has it, 'good and bad are held in equal esteem. p129

This is very important for my interests, as an obvious response to economic abundance is some kind of minimum or basic income. It is an essential illustration of the issues which surround distribution more generally.

The matter of equal esteem and distinctions is also important. It suggests the difficulties of those small slivers of society which have actually achieved abundance in the past. The behavior of aristocracies (or as Aristotle would more likely say, oligarchies) is highly instructive. When landed estates mean they have no immediate material needs, the result has often been a focus on rank and status and courtier affectation, not a higher form of achievement or freedom.

It also is clear that many of our contemporary political issues are claims or conflicts about equality of esteem, more than economic equality.


Secondly, the depravity of mankind is an insatiable thing. At first they are content with a dole of a mere two obols, then, when that is traditional, they go on asking for more and their demands become unlimited. For there is no natural limit to wants and most people spend their lives trying to satisfy them. p131

Such is the fate of the welfare state as it develops toward fiscal catastrophe, perhaps. And it is a general warning about the complications and difficulties of redistributing wealth.

In general, he is concerned with the immediate psychology of how people will see things and behave in practice, rather than ultimate principle, which is why it is useful wisdom.

We of course instinctively see how what he says helps explain why the USSR and other communist states got into trouble. But it is also a warning against some of our own practices, though that may be harder to see.



He is very conservative with a small c.

.. it is clear that there are some occasions which call for change and that there are some laws that need to be changed. But looking at it in another way we must say that there will be need of the very greatest caution. ..A man will receive less benefit from changing a law than damage from becoming accustomed to disobeying authority. .. The law has no power to secure obedience save the power of habit, and that takes a long time to become effective. Hence easy change from established laws to new laws means weakening the power of the law. p138-9

Habituation is a major theme in his ethical approach. There can be significant downside to basing institutions and expectations on the thin and fragile ground of rational choice alone.

What should reformers take from that? Not that reform or major change is impossible, or ought not to be attempted. But that you have to be aware of the practical difficulties and downsides, and do something to avoid or confront or control them. As I said before the election, the left's dreams often turn into darkness , because they look at one shining principle at the expense of daily reality and psychology.

Progress should be measured not by intentions but by actual flourishing lives.

Of course, seeing this as wry, shrewd advice depends on assuming that some elements of human nature are constant, and the human predicament has some timeless elements that unite us with someone who lived so long ago. In international relations, there has been a long debate over Thucydides, and whether his similar observations of power politics and war and history in Ancient Greece (The History of the Peloponnesian War) still have application today.  

I would say that we do advance a little in social understanding over time. But not as much as we think.

I'll look at more tomorrow.



Monday, November 12, 2012

What is good for the individual...

Robert Samuelson says we need to recognize America has a massive welfare state.

The welfare state's great contradiction -- the reason its politics are so messy -- is that what seems good for the individual is not, when multiplied by thousands or millions of cases, always good for society. Politicians appeal to individuals who vote, but in doing so may shortchange the nation. Most obviously: The welfare state's costs may depress economic growth.

The need is not to dismantle the welfare state but to modernize it gradually, preserving its virtues, minimizing its vices and not doing it abruptly so as to derail the recovery. But first we need to admit it exists.

What seems good for the individual is not always good for society. That is a very difficult issue we like to avoid.


Aristotle and the beginning of the Western tradition

With the election still reverberating in the air, it's a good time to get some longer perspective. I read Aristotle's The Politics (Classics) a few weeks so, but haven't talked about it yet. It is going to take at least a week to go through all the ramifications of this book.

Why read something two thousand years old?

Let me explain first of all how I was led to this. I started off this blog asking what had gone wrong with the economy. The answer, as I've gradually come to think, is we have a set of institutions and practices which are designed for scarcity, the oldest problem of mankind. But the basic things of life are now superabundant, at least in the West. We have more material stuff than we know what to do with. Our problem is not starvation, but obesity.

So we have solved the "economic problem", as Keynes called it. As we become more and more efficient and productive, the amount of labor devoted to the exchange economy - services as well as manufacturing - is plunging, just as agriculural employment did before in the nineteenth century. The economy is sputtering as a result.

Mainstream economists are confident that demand will simply shift to newer goods and services. But the nature of our wants and preferences are changing. Most mainstream economists are oblivious to this, because they take tastes and preferences as exogenous. The discipline ignores changing preferences by definition. It is a profound blind spot.

Many of the other things we want in life are changing, as we ascend what Maslow called the hierarchy of needs. The issue is that the things we increasingly want more of are not easily packaged and sold as excluable, non-rivalrous goods and services. They are not as suited to be as easily sold in the market, or delivered by the welfare state. It is difficult to establish clear property rights. (Ask the music or newspaper industries). Alternatively, as technology advances, the marginal cost of so many new goods and services is so low that (as in Facebook, or Google, or Flickr, or other paragons of the new economy) it is easier to give them away to the consumer.

Most of the value in the economy is now intangible, but we have been slow to catch up with the consequences. Mainstream economists are wrong to assume that new jobs will always be created to replace old ones, even though that has been true for the last two centuries.

I have become frustrated with our general lack of answers for what we do with the economy once many of the things we want are not material or easily tradable - such as connection, enjoyment, security, love and relationships, meaning and purpose. These are the things we turn to once we have enough shelter and food and security.

In other words, we need to take a much deeper look at what makes people flourish; not just what simply ensures survival, because flourishing has to be the objective of the economy from now on. And that means it is sensible to take a step back and look at long-run answers to this question, and older conceptions of human nature.

This is all the more important because most of our political theory has ignored this question for two hundred years, as the idea of ends or the "good life" have been sidelined. Liberal political theory - and I mean here liberal in the broad sense, which covers most of the current political spectrum - has as a matter of conscious intention no sense of what flourishing means or what our ends should be. Instead, it asks how people can minimally coexist together in a largely neutral state. In other words, it focuses almost entirely on the referee rather than asking what game we are playing, and what our goals are.

So, among other things, I was riveted by this book : After Virtue, by Alisdair McIntyre. He argues our ethical theory has become incoherent because we lost the much older tradition in the West, dating back to Aristotle, which is based on the virtues. That tradition places much more emphasis on character and judgement than impartiality, and it seeks the "golden mean" and ways to avoid excess rather than universal rules.

I read Aristolte's Nicomachean Ethics. There has also been a revival of interest in virtue ethics in contemporary philosophical circles. It has even reached some brave mavericks in the economics profession, such as Deirdre McCloskey's magnificent books.

I think many of our most intractable current political disputes arise because we argue over distribution without any reference to the virtues or actual flourishing. The left thinks equal distribution is enough. The right tends to want some standards of behavior or work ethic, but finds it hard to articulate this in liberal or libertarian terms. So it falls back on "the market". Our basic economic and political issue is what "fairness" means.

The Politics

This is why I wanted to read Aristotle's other major book, The Politics. Right at the dawn of the western tradition, he discusses what a society focused on virtue and flourishing and the Good Life ought to look like in practice. Part of the fascination is he is, of course, one of the foundational thinkers of the West, one of the most brilliant thinkers who ever lived. As an educator, he profoundly influenced the next two thousand years of history, including the Islamic world via Avicenna and the medieval Chirstian world via Aquinas. In practical terms, he tutored the most brilliantly successful conqueror in history, Alexander the Great, as well, so he is not simply an ivory-tower theoretical hermot. He taught in post-democratic Athens, but was eventually forced to flee by the mob who were hostile to Macedonian non-citizens like himself.

So we have a pragmatic voice of wisdom from a world which had grappled with many of our issues of freedom, leisure and democracy, but which is absolutely disintersted about our own political divisions. Aristotle lived two millenia before America was even discovered.

We will start off with what he says about household management, oikonomia - the origins of our word for economics.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rationality and Sustainability

I happened to come across an earlier discussion on this blog as I was talking about "data-driven rationality" and consistency the other day.We looked at Nobel Laureate in Economics Amartya Sen.

He says:

Rationality of choice.. Is primarily a matter of basing our choices - explicitly or by implication - on reasoning we can reflectively sustain if we subject them to critical scrutiny. (p179-180)

That is a much better way to look at things than narrow internal homo economicus consistency. Instead, there ought to be some reflection and an ability to sustain an argument against external argument.