EARNEST READER, if you are sincerely sick of the nuclear arms debate, if your mind is thoroughly boggled by the confusion of rocket stockpiles and hard target kill ratios and throw-weight projections, if you are totally doped out by the diplomatic thunder between Washington and Moscow, here is a sweet idea to consider instead.

Here is what Harriet and Howard are selling as their alternative to the arms race. This is what Harriet and Howard would tell the President if they ever got in to see him (which they won't, because presidents are protected from seeing people like Howard and Harriet.)

Mr. President, they might say, the Golden Rule is whirling around out there in space - all you have to do is grab hold of it. Change the world. Open a new epoch. Save humankind from its own worst impulses.

"There has to be a conceptual breakthrough," says Howard. "It's a new use of power, not like the Peace Corps, not like AID. Nothing like this has happened in history."

"Right," says Harriet. "It is a historical breakthrough. That's why we have to be so patient."

These two people, Howard and Harriet Kurtz, are as patient as unhonored prophets. For 20 years, they have been pushing their idea. Sending out reams of letters and bulletins, carefully typed with the key thoughts underlined in red. Calling on scores of government officials with their home-made slide-show briefing. Talking to countless editors and reporters, who listen politely and often stuff the printed materials deep into the file for unsolicited, wacky ideas.

In the meantime, the world's nuclear arsenals have doubled and tripled and the capacity for mass destruction is spreading to additional governments.

And Harriet and Howard are in their sixties now. She has cancer (or she had it until the operation; the prognosis is good). Five years ago, they sold their home in upstate New York and moved their "War Control Planners Inc." to Washington, a ninth-floor apartment on 21st Street NW. They are living on his Social Security, deeply in debt.

Futility? Despair? Sympathetic reader, hers is the startling twist. Howard and Harriet are happy in their work. More than that, they are increasingly confident that their idea, as Harriet puts it, "is just coming down the pike."

THE GOLDEN RULE in the sky was a vision which they began promoting it in the early 1960s as "War Safety Control." Now, of course it is technologically established - the United States has dozens of space satellites which orbit the globe, collecting data and photos, monitoring everything from wheat blight to weather to troop movements.

The Kurtzes propose that the President of the United States create and promote, with the urgency of JFK's race-to-the-moon, a "global information cooperative" which would plug every nation of the world into the system, friend and foe alike - sharing not only the commerical-environmental benefits, but eventually the military intelligence which is now kept Top Secret.

That's the point where a lot of people throw the Kurtzes' material into the wastebasket. It is not an idea whose time has come - the notion that U.S. security would be strengthened by helping every other nation to protect its own security.

Undaunted, Harriet and Howard argue that the idea make sense, not just morally, but militarily. When they talk out their idea, it is like a family pas-de-deux between the church and the state. She is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, commissioned in 1964 to follow an independent mission for peace. He is a former lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, an engineer who prefers practical explanations.

They got into this crusade a generation ago in the strangest way. After World War II, Howard was working for American Airlines, doing the planning for the first New York-to-Moscow air service. The CAB granted a license in 1946. Howard and Harriet were studying Russian at Columbia.

The Cold War intervened. Howard was in Moscow on May Day of 1947 and saw the new Soviet weaponry on display there. "I could see the next war beginning," he said. "We would see our two babies being caught in it."

So they became permanent amateur students of global politics. In the 1950s, they held regular roundtables on the subject, collecting ideas, drafting hopeful proposals. Their children, as teenagers, used to bring home friends to join the discussion. Today they are grown (Brenda is an actress in New York; Bryan is a banker in Chicago) and still encourage their parents.

"Bryan," says Howard playfully, "is trying to make enough money to catch us as we fall out of the nest."

In 1965, Howard lost his job with a management consulting firm, an event which he attributes to pressure from two defense manufacturers who were clients. "I was given the choice of either dropping this foolishness about peace or involuntarily resigning," he said. "I had no other choice but to be true to my conscience and Harriet's."

Since then, they have both done peace-making full time. They mail out their newsletter, Checkpoint, to a network of about 3,000 friends and supporters, some of whom respond with occasional contributions. "Our parish," Howard calls them.

United States might use modern electronics to help all nations protect their borders. Some of the same techniques - electronic sensors as sentinels - showed up in Vietnam a few years later as the famous "electronic battlefield." Something similar is now being proposed as an element in the Middle East peace-making. The Kennedy White House did not reply to Howard and Harriet.

Ten years ago, the Kurtzes shifted their tactics somewhat, talking up the non-military possibilities of the satellite systems which were just then emerging, urging that the new marvels be organized on a broad global basis, rather than exploited commercially by only the most developed nations.

Their theory is that, once hostile nations begin sharing the fruits of weather-geological-agricultural information, the benefits of sharing military intelligence will become obvious. "If you say we ought to share it, that sounds moralistic," Howard warns. "What we're saying is that, unless we share it, we can't use it."

The non-military information collected by NASA satellites is, in principle, available to all nations, shared with anyone who wants it. As a practical matter, the expertise needed to make good use of mineral readings or new agricultural mapping is still largely limited to major multinational corporations and the industrialized nations.

The potential benefits, for peace or for profit, are still unknown, but easy to imagine. One NASA-Department of Agriculture experimental satellite, for example, is able to identify 17 different crops from 570 miles up. It can determine whether the crops are seedlings or mature, healthy or blighted, well-watered or parched.

"Should the United States - or the Soviet Union - have monopoly control of this global intelligence and this power of corner the agricultural markets of the world?" the Kurtzes ask. Or should the United States, on its own, launch a global system which would serve everyone, enable the world to plan its food supplies on an interdependent basis? The Kurtzes propose a CAIA (Central Agricultural Intelligence Agency) without secrecy - and without having to ask the Soviet Union whether it approves.

The sharing of military data will also seem more plausible in time, the Kurtzes insist, when Americans [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]