One of President Carter's top inflation-fighters has raised the possibility that the administration may consider mandatory wage and price controls as "a potential option" next year if inflation gets out of hand.
Barry P. Bosworth, director of the Council on Wage and Price Stability, made his remarks during a televised interview taped last week by the Bureau of National Affairs, a Washington-based business reporting and research firm.
Bosworth also was quoted as saying he would be willing to reconsider his present opposition to controls if "the general public would support them" and if he thought they were needed to combat a wage-price explosion in industry.
The Bosworth statement, which surfaced yesterday, sparked a flurry of qualifiers and disclaimers, both by wage-price council spokesman and by other key administration officials.
A council official said flatly that despite Bosworth's comments, "we are not contemplating any" controls and that the inflation-fighter's remarks "in no way imply any policy change" either by the agency or the administration.
He said Bosworth's statement was "made in a lengthy interview, in an academic setting, dealing with abstract situation." The interview is scheduled to be televised soon by the Public Broadcasting System.
A move to mandatory wage and price controls is considered highly unlikely. Carter has no authority under present law to impose controls, and most observers believe Congress wouldn't approve such legislation if the president decided to seek it.
The incident marked the second time in two weeks that a senior administration official has caused a flap with a statement that appeared to contradict previous White House policy pronouncements.
Last week, chief Carter inflation-fighter Alfred E. Kahn told a breakfast meeting with reporters that, in retrospect, Carter should not have signed last year's $18.7 billion tax cut bill.
On Sunday, Treasury Secretary W.Michael Blumenthal told a television audience on the CBS program, "Face the Nation," that "it is very difficult to apply hindsignt" and that the tax bill helped the economy in many ways.
It was not immediately clear why Bosworth raised the possibility of turning to controls as a "potential option." Carter himself just recently rejected the use of controls, and other top officials consistently have opposed them.
Bosworth's statement, in broader context, was: "Now, everybody wants bigger wage increases because of big food-price increases and fuel. If that gets built into the industrial structure, we would have a problem.
"In that type of inflation, I think that mandatory controls, while very extreme, are a potential option." At another point, he added: "You can make them (controls) work for a period of time. That is a problem that's coming for next year." CAPTION: Picture 1, ARTHUR LEVITT JR. . . . small business spokeman; Picture 2, BARRY P. BOSWORTH . . . would reconsider opposition