You can bet that Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan disagrees with a conclusion by "administration officials" that the Fed "made a mistake in increasing its bellwether discount rate" last September. The criticism by the unnamed "officials" mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article on Thursday is widely assumed to have come from Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III.

This does not mean that the Fed will not cut the discount rate -- the rate it charges on its loans to member banks. It may do so soon if it decides conditions have changed. But the central bank governors who voted for the increase think it was the right decision at the time. In fact, it is recalled, the only market criticism of the Fed action at the time was that the half-point jump might not have been enough.

More important, the open criticism of a Fed policy move by an administration official -- which raised eyebrows in financial markets -- was distinctly not welcomed, either, at the Fed, which prides itself on its independence.

The Wall Street Journal article Thursday, citing an interview with Baker, reported a new Reagan administration economic policy of pursuing lower interest rates, even at the risk of a declining dollar. The article also quoted "administration officials" as criticizing the September discount rate increase.

Market analysts, reading the Wall Street Journal story, say that Baker in that only slightly disguised fashion was putting pressure on Greenspan to reverse the discount rate move, and expressed concern over the extent to which Baker appeared to be eroding the Fed's independence by announcing and defining interest rate policy.

C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Institute for International Economics, said that Greenspan needs to give a signal that he is not taking orders from Baker. "If it were {former Fed Chairman Paul A.} Volcker," Bergsten said, "he'd be on some TV show the next day saying he was still in charge."

Greenspan, according to those who know him well, does not tend to take such issues public. Moreover, he obviously is in accord with Baker on a key issue: the need to keep adequate liquidity -- cash -- moving into the financial system in the wake of the stock market crash on Black Monday. He himself announced that policy on the following Tuesday morning.

But it is not clear that Greenspan is as willing to accept a decline in the dollar to the same extent that Baker is -- except in the short term. The traditional concern of the Fed is control of inflation, and all agree that a sharply declining dollar would have serious inflationary consequences.

Thus, where Baker and the Fed could ultimately come into conflict is on the duration of the easy money policy that the administration officially endorsed on Thursday. Economists say that no central bank can in the long term pursue a policy of supplying liquidity.

"Obviously, there have to be limits," says one observer.

After the Baker interview, New York investment banker Geoffrey Bell told The Washington Post that the risk of the new policy is that there could be a free fall of the dollar, forcing interest rates up again, unless a good deficit reduction package emerges. Bell would find no argument with that analysis at the Federal Reserve.

Greenspan will be explaining current U.S. policies and concerns to his fellow central bankers Sunday and Monday at a regular meeting of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland.

Although this meeting was scheduled prior to the revelation of a shift in U.S. policy, that policy clearly will be the main topic on the BIS agenda. Greenspan and his fellow central bankers could be seeking a formal coordination of interest rate policy, following through on European interest rate reductions, including one by the German central bank Thursday.

What the other central bankers in Basel will want to know from Greenspan is how far and how swiftly the United States is prepared to let the dollar fall. Until American authorities decide the time is ripe to stabilize the dollar once again, the burden will be on the other central banks -- notably the Bundesbank in Frankfurt and the Bank of Japan -- to prop up the dollar, if they feel that too low a dollar is hurting their economies.