"I don't know why the economists haven't already figured out the cause of this economic downturn," Bernard said assuredly.
"What is it you know that they don't?" I asked.
"Well it's obvious," Bernard said. "We've given a whole generation no reason for libidinal repression. It is as if we gutted their desire for achievement."
"We had a golden age of about a century when we still made people feel repressed about their sexuality but they no longer felt self conscious about consumption. We allowed indulgence, but only of a particular kind. It was a sweet spot for economic activity."
"Yeah. I guess," Bernard scratched his head. "See, everyone knows that people who are sexually repressed sublimate their sexuality into socially acceptable activities. Repression forces them to turn libidinous activity into productivity - or at least a skill like sports or music."
"So, repression is good for developing marketable skills?"
"Exactly! Without repression, they go right to sex - no intervening, forced development of skills that might make them more alluring as mates. Mating suddenly has nothing to do with economics and just has to do with mating. It's why guys increasingly fail to pursue good careers."
"So wages gradually erode as sex becomes less shameful?"
"Yes! But the shopping is still part of the culture of instant gratification. The consumption doesn't go away with the repression. If anything, it increases, all part of the general culture of indulgence."
"So, when people were repressed enough to develop skills but not so repressed as to stifle their shopping urges, the economy was a roaring success?" I paused. "Have I got that right?"
"Yes!" Bernard had a triumphant little smile. "Nothing could be more obvious."
"And now we're not making enough because our wages have fallen? And our wages have fallen because we're not repressed enough?"
"That's pretty much it, I figure."
"From repression to recession."
Bernard paused. "No. This is not just a recession. We've had those before. This is a drop in incomes, a delayed adjustment to a new lifestyle."
"A new lifestyle?"
"Sure. Incomes have not grown but spending has. Adjusting to that fact will require an adjustment in lifestyle."
"But at least the lifestyle will include sex," I noted.
"For whatever that's worth," Bernard said, speaking like a true octogenarian.