401(k)s were thrust upon you so that companies could weasel out of pension plans, offering you instead something they reap the benefit of until you retire (because if YOU touch it sooner, the taxes will eat you alive), and when the bottom falls out of the stock market and your retirement is gone, the company you work for is certainly not going to be the one left holding the bag. So you worked here 30 years? So 40% of your 401(k) disappeared a year before you were slated to retire and now you have to greet at Walmart until you die? So what.
Pensions were killing companies, donchaknow. All of the majors - your banks, your financial firms, hell, even manufacturers now, are making record profits. But no soup for you, average guy!