Sin Credits: The Future of Europe?

Lately, I’ve been chewing over what’s going to happen to Europe. Working thesis: the expansion of the EU will cement into place a comprehensive, sprawling regime dedicated to micromanaging the health and security of citizens and noncitizens alike; the difference between politics and economics — the state and the market — will eventually vanish completely; and social, moral, and cultural license will be the consolation prize in an era of diminished or useless political liberties.

Then Spiegel Online went ahead and proved that Europeans actually feel stifled by overweening Brussels-weenies. Yet the inertia of bureaucratic centralization seems unstoppable. So what’s the workaround?

Sin credits. Like carbon offsets — which have already been compared (unfavorably) to the medieval sale of indulgences — sin credits will open up to all of Europe what some lucky Russians today are learning to enjoy: a life of access to luxurious pleasures, so long as you can pay for it and let the government do as it will. You bribe your way to freedom. The logic was charted long ago by Tocqueville in his book on the ancien regime, in which prerevolutionary France was portrayed as thoroughly absolutist. ‘Government’ knew about and supervised everything, doling out and taking away privileges, including aristocratic titles, in order to keep the upper classes in its pocket. Democratize and capitalize the principle, and you get Brussels turning a ‘blind’ eye to the local cafe-owner who figures out how to tithe adequately to the administrative conscience of Europe, everywhere and nowhere…