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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/615

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industrial phenomenon of "overproduction," and as illustrating how a greater abundance and cheaper price of desirable commodities, work for the equalization and betterment of the conditions of life among the masses, the recent experience of the article quinine should not be overlooked. Owing to greatly increased and cheaper supplies of the cinchona-bark, from which quinine is extracted, and to the employment of new and more economical processes, by which more quinine can be made in from three to five days than could be in twenty under the old system, the markets of the world in recent years have been overwhelmed with supplies of this article, and its price has declined in a most rapid and extraordinary manner, namely: from 16.9. M. ($4.70) the ounce in the English market in 1877, to 12s. ($3) in 1880; 3s. 6d. (80 cents) in 1883; 2s. 6d., in 1885; and to 1s. 6d., (30 cents), or less, in 1887. As quinine is a medicine, and as the increase in the consumption of medicines is dependent upon the real or fancied increase of ill-health among the masses, rather than on any reduced cost of supply (although, in the case of this specific article, decreased cost has undoubtedly somewhat increased its legitimate consumption), the problem of determining how a present and apparently future overproduction was to be remedied has been somewhat difficult of solution. But recently the large manufacturers in Europe have made an arrangement to put up quinine (pills) protected by gelatine, and introduce and offer it so cheaply in the East Indies and other tropical countries, as to induce its extensive consumption on the part of a vast population inhabiting malarious districts which has hitherto been deprived of the use of this valuable specific by reason of its costliness. And it is anticipated that by reason of its cheapness it may, to a considerable extent, supersede the use of opium among the poorer classes living along the Chinese rivers, who it is believed extensively consume this latter pernicious and costly drug, not so much for its mere narcotic or sensual properties, as for the relief it affords to the fever depression occasioned by malaria.

All this evidence, therefore, seems to lead to the conclusion that there is little foundation for the belief largely entertained by the masses, and which has been inculcated by many sincere and humane persons who have undertaken to counsel and direct them, that the amount of remunerative work to be done in the world is a fixed quantity; and that the fewer there are to do it the more each one will get. When the real truth is, that work as it were breeds work; that the amount to be done is not limited; that the more there is done the more there will be to do; and that the continued increasing material abundance which follows all new methods for effecting greater production and distribution, is the true and permanent foundation, and the certain assurance of continually increasing prosperity for the masses in the future.