[W]hen the market is up, people think to themselves "I wish I owned some stocks" and are inclined to support it. But market peaks are, in reality, the worst possible time to buy stocks. After a crash is when you want to buy. But as the privatization polling shows, large segments of the population don't see it that way.I said "pretty good" only because this sounds like a problem that can be patched up somewhat easily, either through regulation of investments or better financial education. In theory. In practice, though, it's true that many of the whacked-out privatization proposals simmering in the House wouldn't safeguard against this sort of investor irrationalism, and lots of people would, in fact, probably screw themselves over. On the other hand, I doubt Democrats would dare make hay out of the fact that people are morons and likely to do moronic things when given control over their own money. (Note, I'm really contradicting my efficient market musings below. Bear with me, I promise to get all these confusions straightened out by... next week. Promise.)
What this psychological reality means is that even with investment options restricted to just a handful of relatively safe funds, many people are still likely to do a very bad job managing their money by "churning" from one fund to another: Selling low and buying high, in other words, in an endless effort to own whatever's up in any given month even though this is the reverse of a sound investment strategy.