Bill Bradley, the senior U.S. senator from New Jersey, came by to visit us in our offices on Wall Street some time back.

We've had a number of dignitaries and well-known people meet with us. But Sen. Bradley's visit was unique. Everyone, from the receptionist, to the office manager, to the vice president of advertising and all the journalists were interested in seeing the senator.Tall, around 6 feet 7 inches, and somewhat heavier than when he played professional basketball for the New York Knickerbockers, he took all the attention with a slight smile and a gracious wave of the hand. Unlike a lot of politicians, he seemed to be sincerely genial. There wasn't that greedy look in the eye that often comes when a politician meets voters.

He wore a blue blazer that had seen better days. The collar was somewhat frayed. Seated among several of us editors and the publisher, he immediately took off his jacket and hung it over the back of the chair. The checkered shirt and sweater he wore would not have won him any best-dressed man of the year awards either.

Back in the days when he played basketball, his Knick teammates called him ''Dollar Bill." Although his contract in basketball was lucrative, the nickname had more to do with his renowned frugality. A dollar and Bill did not part company too often, if his teammates were to be believed. Slouching there in the chair before us, he looked as if he didn't spend many dollars on clothes either.

Sen. Bradley spoke much about money that day. The U.S. economy and the world economy are of paramount importance to him and have been for several years. After graduating from Princeton, he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, where he concentrated his studies in economics and international politics and trade.

"For the United States and the world in general to have long-term stable economic growth," he said, "there are at least five areas in which we need action."

He ticked off the five, first raising a thumb and then successive fingers. They were: tax reform in the United States as well as other nations; reduction of the U.S. deficit; reduction in Third World debt; development of policies to bring about a more stable exchange rate among major nations; and, the streamlining of international trade laws.

Sen. Bradley has been working on these systematically and painstakingly for some time. It was he who originally pioneered reform of the tax laws with the introduction of his Fair Tax Act back in 1982. His effort was instrumental in the actual passage of a tax reform law last year.

A consensus All-American basketball player twice at Princeton, he was best known as a professional ball player for his tireless movement without the ball and his excellent shooting ability from long distance. As a legislator, he

hasn't changed his style. He also was not much of a dribbler with the ball going to his left. His early days in politics saw him constantly going to his left. But over the last few years, his tendency has been to move more to the right.

A Democrat, Sen. Bradley was elected to the Senate on his first try at an elective office back in 1978. His name often has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. The political pros don't give him much serious consideration. Though a warm person, he is not really outgoing and has a habit of speaking in a somewhat scholarly and somber tone. Calm and mild-mannered, he comes across more like a President Ford than a youthfully charismatic President Kennedy. But not unlike President Ford, unexpected circumstances might just make him the perfect president of the United States.

Just as the nation came around to his idea of reforming tax law, more and more U.S. legislators and international bankers and business people are beginning to adopt his approach to Third World debt. If the Third World, and Latin American countries in particular, are going to recover from their huge debts, their economies must be permitted to grow. "We can't put them through austerity for the next 15 years," he said.

Two primary things are needed to get their economies growing, he believes. First, other countries, and principally the United States and Japan, must increase their purchases of these debtor nations' exports. And secondly, some of that debt must be forgiven and/or exchanged for equity in foreign companies. He also believes the interest rates should be reduced as well.

When you listen to Sen. Bradley, what you are most impressed with is the logic of his arguments. The problem, as I see it, is that the world often is not very logical.

Sen. Bradley wrote a book shortly before his retirement from the sports world that recently was reissued in paperback. Titled "Life on the Run," it's an enjoyable insight into the hectic life of a professional athlete.

I think his description in the book of Lou Jorn, a masseur with the International Hotel Health Club in Los Angeles, has some bearing on how economic policy should be approached in the world.

Lou, according to Mr. Bradley's book, says that a good masseur has to know anatomy - the muscle structure and where the nerves hook up. "When I pull the muscle away from the bone my fingers hit the nerves and dilate the blood vessels in the muscles," says Mr. Jorn. "No one else can do what I can do with my fingers." But a good masseur, Mr. Jorn adds, must also know how much

pressure to apply and where and must always remember that because no two bodies are alike no two massages should be alike.

Without question, Sen. Bradley is bright, logical and systematic. But just as no two bodies are alike, no two economic situations in the world are alike. Sen. Bradley is well aware of that intellectually. Viscerally, however, one gets the inkling that he likes to cut the feet off to fit the people to the Procrustean bed rather than build different size beds.

When he played basketball he was one of the better disciplined players in the entire league. He would run and run until he ended up at a preselected spot to receive a prearranged pass and then would shoot the basketball. He was not a good one-on-one player who could make things happen with spontaneous adjustments to chaotic circumstances. Flexibility in economic plans is important, too. The market is one of the better systems known to man for making quick and spontaneous adjustments to unanticipated circumstances.

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