NOW THAT THE STAR is gone, people are wondering if The Post will yield to the two temptations inherent in any monopoly position -- sloth and greed. From past experience with other monopoly newspapers, I have identified an early warning signal. I call it the Night Baseball Box Score Test, or NBBST.

A sure sign of a newspaper's hustle and willingness to spend money to serve its readers has always been whether it will keep someone on the sports desk late into the night (and someone standing by in the press room) to get those late boxes from the coast. In a city with both morning and afternoon papers, the avid fan need not reach for his tranquilizers when the morning paper fails to include late box scores from the previous evening. After all, they'll be in the afternoon paper. Meanwhile the editor of the morning paper, not wanting to give his readers any reason to buy the competition, will make every effort to include the night scores. Removing the competition not only relieves the morning editor of his incentive to better reading service, but deprives the reader of the comfort of knowing that whatever is missing in the morning can be found in the afternoon paper.

So how has the Post done on the NBBST? So far not well at all. Lately West Coast box scores have been missing from the paper on several mornings. Even worse than not printing late scores, the Post has on occasion failed to correct the deficiency in the next day's paper. I will never know, for example, what happened between the Reds and Dodgers on Aug. 12.

If you have children in college, you are probably agonizing over where to dig up the thousands of dollars you'll need this fall to pay for their education. There could be a simple solution to your problem. Congress could establish a national education bank that would make loans to students to finance their college years. Not to parents -- to students. The students themselves would repay the loans. It could be done gradually, through a modest addition to the graduate's annual income tax. That way the cost of an education would fall on the people who profit from it, not their parents, but it would be a manageable cost to be paid back over 20 or 30 years.

The shift of college costs might cause students to think seriously about whether they really were ready for college, so they wouldn't waste important formative years (and their parents' money) on minimum effort and absurd courses. But its major benefit would be to spare middle-aged America the terrible burden of financing our system of higher education -- a burden that, more than any other obligation I know, has caused men and women I respect and admire to compromise, sell out, and otherwise betray the bright promise of their own lives as they seek to provide a better life for their young.

One of the nation's most enduring problems may be nearing solution. I refer to dogs who bite letter carriers. For years, every attempt to curb this deplorable canine tendency has failed. Letter carriers are armed with spray cannisters of "Halt," which contains cayenne pepper. But Halt seems only to add spice to the delectable morsel that our dedicated postal employes represent to the Spots and Fidos of America. At last, however, it appears a solution has been found -- the umbrella. When that vicious fox terrier starts to lunge, all the letter carrier need do is pop open the bumbershoot in the dog's direction and stride confidently on his way. No more undignified cowering in the bushes.

You don't believe it? Well, the umbrella defense has been tested in California by 25 letter carriers, and, according to the San Jose News, it has received "rave reviews" -- from the letter carriers of course.

This summer Larry Ratliff, part owner of Vanhouse Coal Co., was sentenced to 60 days in jail because of a mining accident that killed Billy Bruce Dougherty, a Vanhouse employee.

Ratliff had pleaded guilty to a violation of the Mine Safety and Health Act. It appears that, while working the mine one day as acting foreman, Ratliff ordered Dougherty to set up roof timbers in an area too far from the nearest supports. The roof collapsed, killing Dougherty and injuring another miner.

Why is this case worthy of special note? Ratliff is the first coal company executive ever sentenced to hard time under the Mine Safety and Health Act. The act was passed in 1969. Since that time 1,959 miners have died in mining accidents.

Another enduring national problem is the difficulty of reading government regulations and publications. A bill before the Washington state legislature seeks to solve this dilemma. It requires that all rules issued by state agencies record 50 points or more on something called the "Flesch reading ease test." Here's how this simple, convenient, down-to-earth test works:

"The Flesch reading ease score for an individual code section shall be computed as follows: a) divide the total number of words in the section by the total number of sentences and multiply the result by 1.015; b) divide the total number of syllables in the section by the total number of words and multiply the result by 84.6; c) subtract the sum of figures achieved by a) and b) from 206.835. This number is the Flesch reading ease test score for the section."

The Flesch reading ease test does not pass the Flesch reading ease test. Its score is 37.28.

There is one cause of inflation I would never have guessed. It is illegal drugs. A recent study by the Internal Revenue Service estimates that the illegal drug business involves $135 billion a year. Since 90 percent of this cost is a factor of the illegality rather than actual production expense, we could, by legalizing drugs, eliminate a significant cause of inflation. We would also be eliminating what is probably -- if one includes the street crimes committed to get the money to pay for drugs as well as the organized crime involved in selling them -- the major cause of crime in this country.

Now, I know what you're going to say, "What about my nephew whose brain has been softened by marijuana? For God's sake, don't make it any easier for him to get the stuff."

People take drugs to relieve pain and anxiety. Making drugs illegal has had little effect, as we all sadly know, on making them unavailable. The only real way to control drugs -- and this includes alcohol and tobacco -- is to help people control the pain and anxiety in their lives, which would keep them from wanting drugs.