NOW HERE IS something we want to be a little delicate about. Very often when administrations get ready to leave town there is a certain flurry of -- how should we say? -- paying off this one and signing up that one and fixing the contract for the preferred contractor and freeing up the family industry, by way of waivers and exemptions, from all those noisome regs that Uncle Harry says are killing him. It's done at five minutes to midnight outgoing-administration time, but you only read about the fiscal carnage much later when it is discovered.

We don't know whether the normal amount of this kind of political shoplifting is going on at the present time, but we do observe -- it is so wonderfully characteristic of this particular administration -- that there has been a flurry of last-minute, do-it-while-you-still-can activity but that this has been more in the way of putting regulations on the books, as distinct from taking them off . Poor Uncle Harry. Evidently the reformers have gone mad, and their closing days' output is reported to be prodigious, rules and dicta and judgments flowing forth that affect all manner of program goals the Carter administration held dear. We have this unshakable image of some of the truly hard-core among the soon-to-be-exiled-rule-makers sitting around their solar heaters in the chill of the Reagan years, singing mournfully "we can't help this) "My Bonnie Lies Over the OSHA."

Mr. Meese, speaking for the incoming administration, has let it be known that the new crowd intends to take a very close look at the product of all this last-minute effort. And some of it, no doubt, will be undone. We reach no judgment on which part is worth saving and which deserves undoing. But we do have one bit of sage, even stellar, advice for the incoming group: if you are looking for restrictions and decrees to get rid of, start with the terrible, confining, pointless symbolic restrictions the Carter White House imposed on its own government, the teeny-tiny economies about cars and drivers and that rest that, in important ways, cost far more than they saved. It is just downright inefficient to make the life of important aides and assistants more awkward and inconvenient and accident-prone than they need to be. They must have better things to do with their time than stand around in Washington's ineffable rainy-day traffic trying to hail a cab. If they don't, there's something wrong with the administration to begin with. And, don't worry about how the conveniences and amenities might make them imperious or insensitive or just plain full of themselves. If that happens you will notice.

And if you don't we'll tell you.