Last month two of President Ronald Reagan's special assistants for policy development contacted eight magazines -- four by letter, four by phone -- to request complimentary subscriptions. One letter read:

"In order to keep abreast of diverse viewpoints, we would very much like to receive a subscription to Forbes magazine. However, as you know, we are in an Administration which advocates austerity, including an austere budget for this purpose. Therefore, we would very much appreciate it if we could receive a complimentary subscription."

The special assistants, Doug Bandow and Kevin Hopkins, also contacted Newsweek, The Nation, Human Events, Commentary, The New Republic, Time and National Review. "We didn't want to hit the taxpayers up for this," Bandow said yesterday. "I don't know how they responded. Talk to my assistant."

"They all responded positively," the assistant said, "except for the National Review. Somebody there said there were already too many free subscriptions at the White House. We made out a requisition for that one."

Now Bandow and Hopkins will be getting two copies of the National Review, since publisher William Rusher said yesterday that they're already on a comp list. As they are at Forbes:

"I'm happy to make a relatively minor contribution to the Feds," said Malcolm S. Forbes, "as opposed to what I pay in corporate and personal taxes."

"We sent them a copy of the magazine and a bill," said Victor Navasky, editor of The Nation. "We told them that since they're in the learning business they're entitled to our $17 student rate. Funny how an administration so devoted to free enterprise wants a free subscription. Maybe they want to build up magazine reserves."