Just when we were headed for Nirvana, that blissful realm where actions are separated from their consequences, they've taken the starch blockers off the market. Starch blockers, in case you've spent the past few months in solitary confinement, are (supposedly) a wondrous bit of chemistry that keeps the body from digesting starch. These marvelous pills, we were told, would make it possible for us chubbies to cram our bellies full of pastas, breads, pastries -- all those forbidden pleasures -- without risk of weight gain.

Those who saw starch blockers as a miracle break-through are disappointed at the Food and Drug Administration's ordering them off the market as unproven and perhaps dangerous. It is my own opinion that they would have been far more dangerous if were established that they do work.

It isn't that I favor obesity, only that I fear the separation of actions from their natural consequences. So many of our problems, if you think about it, stem from the attempt to do just that.

Forget all the conservative and neo-conservative complaints about welfare, for instance. The real trouble with welfare is that it is an attempt to block the consequences of improvident behavior. I'm not talking about the disabled. I'm talking about those who dropped out of school when their contemporaries kept at it and, as a result, haven't the skills to obtain well-paid work. Welfare blocks the consequences of their bad choice. Most of us think about the effect on the family budget before we decide to have more children. Welfare, because it softens the economic impact of additional children, makes thinking and planning unnecessary.

We are forever looking for ways to drive a wedge between cause and effect, between our actions and their consequences. If we are liberal, we do it by "understanding" why people shoot dope (or each other), why they refuse to undertake the sacrifices that are taken routinely by responsible folk like ourselves, why they won't take crappy jobs or register for the draft or work hard in school. If we are conservative, we do it by contending that the only true morality consists of turning a profit. No business practice is so sharp, no tax dodge so unconscionable that it cannot be justified on the basis of the amorality of the marketplace.

Unquestionably, the most successful blocker to date is The Pill, whose sole function is to separate intercourse from pregnancy. True enough, it has greatly facilitated family planning. But it has also given us the sexual revolution. If The Pill is a preganancy blocker, the sexual revolution is a guilt blocker. The old rules, which mandated responsible sexual behavior, on pain of unacceptable consequences, have given way to a new rule that renders morality a matter of personal feeling. And not just of the offending party. "Why do you feel threatened that I am sleeping around? How long have you had this feeling of insecurity?" If you can't block the consequences, at least you can transfer them to someone else.

The point is not that there is anything wrong with wanting to have a slim body, a fat bank account or a well-rounded sex life. The point is wanting these things without paying the cost is another name for irresponsibility. Starch blockers indeed!

Thomas Aquinas looked for a consequence without a triggering action and called it God. We look for action without consequences and call it Heaven.