Leading Article: The heavens open

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AN AMERICAN company has had a brilliant idea. As we report on page one, it is planning to send a giant billboard into orbit round the earth and reach a target audience beyond the dreams of Ogilvy & Mather, or indeed Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Every night 5.5 billion people could watch it swim into their ken, a slogan 200 miles up, but (being one mile square) still readable. The benefits to global trade and the free market would be enormous. Advertisers need no longer fret about the best way to reach social class A and B consumers in Weybridge, while not ignoring the C1s in Basildon and Sunderland. We would all be included - C2s, Ds and Es even, share-croppers in India, gang-fighters in Los Angeles, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Boris Yeltsin, Mike Tyson, the Sultan of Brunei. Fishermen off Samoa would raise their eyes from their catches to see it. Congolese tribespeople might spot its reflection in the still backwaters of tropical rivers. To the poor, wherever they may be, Calcutta, Somalia, Peru, its nightly appearance would be the promise of their earthly salvation. It would encourage them to struggle from their poverty (indolence is its largest cause) so that they might spend and consume.

Or it might do, if its originators had a bolder and altogether more commercial slogan than the one they intend: Reforest the Earth. Yet the floating of even this harmless injunction 200 miles above us has raised so- called 'aesthetic' and 'moral' objections from idealists and romantics. And so, because of these chatterers and woolly-heads, the immense promise of the global free market may be kept from its full realisation.