GameStop, ya don't stop

All the stock market turmoil with GameStop, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and the like is hysterically funny on one level. But it also seems like a dangerous moment for your 401(k), if you're lucky enough to have one.

Reader alert: Here's where I really go "old man" and start ranting irrationally about how when I was a boy, we ate dirt and we liked it. Either be prepared to bear with my uninformed opinions, or scroll on.

This has been coming for a long time.

For decades now, people have been betting on stock prices without actually investing in the companies involved. It really ramps up the volatility. Too much so. The purpose of the markets is to facilitate actual investment in private business enterprise. It shouldn't be about options, derivatives, all that pure gambling stuff, which is garbage. As my dad said of many things, "Jackie, it oughta be outlawed." So that's one problem.

Meanwhile, you have every Tom, Dick, and Harry trading stocks on their phones, for free, all day long. You can put $50 down on the Blazers +5 against the Lakers, or you can put $50 on what GameStop stock is going to do today. It's all the same to a lot of people, particularly young people. And they might stampede in or out of a stock together based on something they saw on TikTok.

At the same time, there are sober, careful people who have their life savings in the stock market. They'd never put their life savings into sports gambling. But they're being thrown into a similar pool, whether they like it or not. For them, the burn could be life-changing.

Don't get me wrong. Nothing amuses me more than seeing some supposed Masters of the Universe have their hedge fund dreams trashed by some kids on Reddit. But I worry that the securities markets have changed radically since 1934, when the most significant securities laws were last revisited, and they are not up to the task of policing the wild scene that we have now. 

There will have to be new laws. But heaven knows what's going to happen while the politicians figure out what those laws need to say. You might put some of your dough in the mattress, just in case.