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The VIX index is a measure of stock market volatility. When it goes up, it means investors are afraid that the market is likely to swing wildly and unpredictably. Thus its nickname: the fear index.

And, as you can see on the right, the market is plenty fearful these days. Not as fearful as late 2008, when the VIX index broke 80 for a couple of months — at least, not yet — but it’s heading there.

Why? Let us count the ways. Problems in the eurozone. Inflation fears in the U.S. The housing bubble in China. Persistent unemployment. The “flash crash” earlier this month that no one seems able to properly explain. Rising oil prices in the midst of flat economic conditions. Continuing global imbalances that are starting to seem nearly intractable. Mortgage delinquency rates in the U.S. that have risen to nearly 10%. Etc. And fear is the economy’s worst enemy. If it doesn’t abate, panic is next.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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