The Post reported {front page, Dec. 17} that 33 leading economists from the United States and other countries warn that a depression can be avoided only if huge trade imbalances are corrected. These economists are convinced that "leaving it to the market will lead to disaster," and they especially want the United States to consume less and export more goods to Europe and Asia.

Calls for reductions in consumer demand and consumption (the goal is a 1 percent to 1.5 percent reduction) are familiar code language for lower wages (undersell competitors by reducing prices) and cutbacks in such transfer payments as welfare and Social Security benefits. Quite in character, the economists warn against protectionism. Their proposals are awash in ironies.

They refuse to use such words as "regulation," but they have specific forms of indirect market regulation in mind, and concrete objectives as well. Why not adopt the Herbert Hoover/Franklin Roosevelt view of how to prevent or recover from depressions? The countries involved should explicitly join together to "divide the business" in many industries so as to enable producers to make useful long-term plans that will move toward the specified trade balances. This would be far better than a downward wage-price war that would reduce workers to Korea-level wages and guarantee depression.

And, as usual, the economists are big on prescribing that other people reduce their living standards. After all, they could have designed a program to reduce their own consumption.