Robert Bork comes packaged as a legal scholar who has been, in President Reagan's words, a model of judicial restraint. Reagan would have been equally credible had he said he chose James Watt for his open-mindedness or Edwin Meese for intellectual depth.

Bork's thinking -- and thereby his qualifications for the Supreme Court -- is revealingly shown in his resentments against antitrust law. It is the area where he has chosen to be something more than a quick-hit scold, as when he is a one-man kangaroo court carping about past Supreme Court decisions that most other jurists, liberal or conservative, have accepted as traditional law.

The major intellectual work of Bork is "The Antitrust Paradox: A Policy at War With Itself." A 1978 book, self-congratulatory in tone and wooden of phrase, it claims that antitrust laws were ill-conceived in the past and are not much needed in the present.

In the mid-1970s, after teaching at Yale Law School for 13 years, the future Supreme Court nominee became Mr. Anti-Antitrust. The model of judicial restraint wanted to unrestrain the 1890 Sherman Act and the 1914 Clayton Act, the two major antitrust laws intended to control the market power of corporations. Cerebral-sounding and with a Yale base, Bork the unrestrainer aligned himself with those corporations that despised antitrust advocates -- the late Sen. Philip Hart had been one, Ralph Nader another -- as meddlers blocking progress and profits.

Often the words of attack were similar. In "Industrial Concentration and the Market System" (1979), a General Motors executive asked about critics of giant firms: "What is really bothering these people? ...I suspect that basically they are hostile to the capitalist system itself and large companies serve as proxies vulnerable to attack." In an essay in the same book, Bork agreed. He saw in antitrust regulations "a generalized hostility to capitalism and free markets. The drive for intervention on any handy theory {antitrust} comes out of a frustrated socialist impulse."

By Bork's lights, the socialists apparently included that fanatical leftist John Mitchell. In 1969, the then-attorney general spoke out against the increasing dangers of corporate acquisitions and mergers: "Super-concentration creates a 'community of interest' which discourages competition among large firms and establishes a tone in the marketplace for more and more mergers. This leaves us with the unacceptable probability that the nation's manufacturing and financial assets will continue to be concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people -- the very evil that the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, the Robinson-Patman Act and the Celler-Kefauver Amendment were designed to combat."

Mitchell's fears, expressed 18 years ago, seem as if they were recovered from a paleolithic time capsule. It was still a decade before American industries would spend $50 billion a year in mergers and acquisitions and 15 years before the figure would climb to $200 billion. If a conservative like Mitchell was using the word "evil" to describe the comparatively harmless scene of 1969, what's the word for 1987? And what's to be said of a Bork, far to the reactionary fringes of the antitrust debate?

Much can be said. His rabidity for rationalizing corporate concentration raises questions about what should be the major qualification of a Supreme Court justice: balanced judgment. "Antitrust should never interfere with any conglomerate merger," he writes. Never? Any? Not some or most? Is this the sensitivity of mind that ought to mark a Supreme Court justice? Bork's polemics against those who disagree with him -- they are capitalism-haters -- reveal a closed mind. He doesn't like the history of antitrust law, so he ignores it. He doesn't like the precedent, so he denounces it.

What is at first bizarre -- the judicial restrainer championing few restraints for corporations -- becomes farcical: Bork presents himself as an "original intent" interpreter of the Constitution. The framers intended to limit the public power of government. Can it be imagined that they did not also intend to limit the private power of economic groups? The durability and constitutionality of the two major antitrust laws -- Sherman and Clayton -- suggest that the original intent was to protect citizens from all excessive power.

Bork, the country's chief crusader against antitrust, says no. Nothing should impede the growth of corporate power.