Democracies "must work together more effectively," says Max M. Kampelman ["Invitation to Democracy," op-ed, Dec. 17]. He wants "big ideas" about it and commends a proposed meeting of foreign ministers in June as "the direction to take." Actually, we might do better to take lessons from our Founding Fathers in 1787.

Madison and his colleagues first set aside as inadequate the treaty organization--then the Articles of Confederation (now NATO, the European Union, the United Nations). Instead they affirmed that (1) all sovereignty resides in the people in their entirety--none in government, (2) valid powers possessed by government are those defined in a constitution that the people--not legislatures, ministers or executives--legalize in special elections organized for that purpose, and (3) the constitution would establish a union legislature elected directly by the people.

If we have learned our lessons well, democracies will draft a transnational constitution, present it to the people in referendum for legalization (ratification), and establish a union legislature whose delegates will be elected directly by the people.

A difficulty noted by Mr. Kampelman is deciding who will qualify as sufficiently democratic to join. The plausible answer is any society whose power structure allows its people to approve a popular referendum on the union constitution.

Such a procedure was proposed by Clarence Streit in his bestseller "Union Now" in 1939 and was advocated by President Eisenhower's secretary of state, Christian Herter, who convened a conference of NATO nations in 1962 at Paris to explore the matter. The new millennium will be a propitious occasion to proceed with it.

ALLAN F. MATTHEWS

Reston