What makes the United States system of government different from others is that when you're thrown out of high political office, you are not sent to a labor camp or put under house arrest. In this country, you are condemned to a tax-free think tank until your party comes back to power.

When the Republicans went into exile, they were sentenced to the Hoover Institute at Stanford, the Georgetown Center for Strategic Studies and the American Enterprise Institute. Now it's the Democrats' turn to do time in academia.

The other day two Republican transition men in trenchcoats showed up at Carter appointee Doolittle's office to take him away. Doolittle, who had been making $50,000 a year, was reluctant to go.

"You can leave with us quietly," one of the trenchcoats said, "or we can drag you out by your feet."

"Where are you taking me?" Doolittle asked.

"To the Brookings Institution on Massachusetts Avenue."

"But that's a maximum security think tank!" Doolittle cried.

"If you keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble, in time you might work a transfer to the Aspen Institute or the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge."

"Do they give you a parking place at Brookings?" Doolittle asked.

"How do we know?" said the other trench coat. "We're Republicans. We've never been inside the walls."

Doolittle packed his toothbrush and an autographed picture of Carter in his briefcase. No one in the outer office dared talk to him. He was placed in a car between the two men and driven to Brookings, a forbidding building with an armed guard at the gate.

"Here's another one for you," one of the trench coats said to the guard as they dumped Doolittle out of the car.

The guard took him into the warden's office. The warden said, "I've been reading your record, Doolittle. You're a tough nut. You predicted a 7 percent inflation rate for 1978, 4 percent unemployment in 1979 and said the Gross National Product would double in 1980. That makes you a three-time loser. If you don't walk the line here, we'll send you to the Lyndon B. Johnson School in Austin, Tex."

"Not Austin," Doolittle pleaded. "I couldn't do four years in Austin."

"Keep that in mind if you get any smart ideas about breaking out of this think tank."

Then the warden said, "Guard, take this man to his cell."

The guard took Doolittle down a long, dark hallway, and finally unlocked the door to a cubbyhole. All that was in there was a desk, a chair, and small couch filled with straw. On the wall was a blackbord with a piece of chalk."

"Is that it?" Doolittle said.

"This is your home, Buster. Now start thinking."

"What about?"

"We don't care. You're expected to turn in a progress report once a week on what you're working on, but no one pays attention to it. Lunch is at noon. You're entitled to two visitors a week, and you can write one 'Letter to the Editor' a month to The New Republic. Lights out by five o'clock."

The guard slammed the door shut and locked it. Doolittle walked over to the desk and sat down. He started writing on a yellow legal pad: "Human Rights and Their Effect on Killer Bees in Brazil."