The world curbs its appetites through moderation. Appetites are seen as inevitable and, therefore, to be invariably indulged, but with the excusing proviso that moderation is available and will retain a sense of functionality. Moderation rescues all excesses by demonstrating to the dubious that everything is permitted for everything can be tempered by power.

Moderation consists of a quantitative level of desire that is socially safe and acceptable. Thus is conserved the core of appetite or desire. An enormous superstructure of moderation exists in society and politics, whole technologies mitigating excess, smoothing it out, making it palatable, even sustainable.

A model of moderation, for example, is society’s consumption of alcohol (one could substitute as examples war, petroleum, power, pleasure or other commodity or act). From primordial times, consumption of alcohol has lured human energy and roused its fantasy. Nothing stops consumption of alcohol except what is fancifully evoked: moderation. An individual can, in this argument, be moderate, consume moderately. Here moderation refers to lack of dysfunction. Law, science, and technology conspire to define moderation and functionality. But true cost, economic, social, psychological, is never taken into account. Production, technology, transportation, marketing, enforcement, finance, medical infrastructure for death, injury, and destruction, the impact on families and individuals — all of these factors are socially tolerable costs if only, runs the argument, individuals would just be moderate — understanding that many will not.

All of these enormous cost factors are already mitigated by expressions of moderation. What, on such a scale, is excess?

Society maintains these costs because of the perceived inevitability of appetite for the given object, action, or desire. Such is the tautology of moderation, which tolerates a complex network of effort and excess because moderation can always be invoked for the postulated individual consumer. Consumption (of alcohol, war, power, pleasure), however much criticized publicly, is the core of material well-being in the modern world.

Moderation abets consumption. War, food, transportation, entertainment, education, administration, manufacturing, resource exploitation — no field of worldly endeavor is not worthy. But a tenet of modern economics is that as long as production continues, the destruction of the same product is acceptable, indeed necessary. Gross national product is measured not by positive and healthful activities and goods but by how much money and profit is to be got. More cancers, more injuries, more warfare, more vehicles, more deforestation, more chemicals, more banks, more pavement, more food outlets, more consumption — the more the better as far as producing profit and control. All are acceptable because moderation can ameliorate excess, withholding indulgence to just before the moment of self-destruction. Individuals may succumb to excess as peripheral or tolerable damage to the ethics of moderation, but, in fact, such losses are useful lessons, a warning, a propitiation like a sacrifice to ward off the true lesson that moderation fails.

Thus moderation not only fails but kills. Moderation is a barrier to reality. Moderation is the fraud of ethics, a physical, chemical, or psychological computation of limits that nevertheless destroy in order to sustain desire. If desire comes from within, then society abets desire in each individual. If desire is prompted from without by manipulating forces and people, then society induces it.

The solitary has the opportunity to look upon society and the mechanisms of consumption as a juggernaut for crushing the self. The remedy is not in opposing the vast processes of society, however. This is a physical impossibility, of course, and perhaps a psychological conceit. But no action is warranted or mandated. It is enough to retain an integrity that acknowledges the sleight of hand that is moderation, and disengage from whatever requires moderation for justification of consumption in the largest ethical sense.