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WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 5, 2005
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EDITORIAL

It pays to Discover a less tacky sign for 2006

Happy Discover Card!

In one of the tackier moments in recent U.S. history, New York City welcomed the New Year at midnight with a massively gaudy, brightly lit "2005." And below that, an equally massive, brightly lit "Discover Card."

The display brought to mind John Maynard Keynes' comment, "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the best good of everyone."

Whether the best good of everyone was served at Times Square seems doubtful.

Speaking of a different city, labor organizer Eugene Debs said in the late 19th century, "Chicago is the product of modern capitalism and, like other great commercial centers, is unfit for human habitation."

A great deal of empirical evidence confirms that capitalism is the only sustainable system of distributing wealth, but seeing "Discover Card" lord over the world's greatest hub of economic strength makes the barter system look pretty good.

Discover reported $2 billion in interest and annual fees in December. Its overwhelming sign is a testament to the company's expectation that cardholders spent even more money that they did not have this holiday season.

On its Web site, Discover proclaims that millions of people saw its "state-of-the-art sign on top of One Times Square." The now-dingy sign is available on Discover's exclusive Web cam, a treat made possible, no doubt, by its 50 million cardholders.

"It pays to Discover," croons the company's advertisements.

We could not agree more. It pays to discover whether New York City can find a better symbol to tower over 2006.

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