I've got a beef with the government. Surely some federal agency must be responsible.

I'm sure it's not the Consumer Product Safety Commission, although my complaint is triggered by a dangerous product--a cigar that burned a hole in the vest of my good suit.

The problem is this: I cannot replace the damaged vest because the manufacturer doesn't make quite the same pattern anymore. It isn't because the pattern proved unpopular. Every shop I try carries something so close to my pattern that if you wore one of their suits and I wore mine, people would think we were dressed identically. But put the vest from their suit with the coat and pants from mine, and the differences, while hardly worth reprogramming the fabric-making machine, become dismayingly obvious. The stripes are just enough wider apart, the color off just enough, to make it look as though my haberdasher is the local Goodwill.

Where is the government when you need it? Why does the federal establishment allow manufacturers to make these pointless but maddening changes? Why can't somebody enforce standards?

You know what I'm talking about. Take seersucker suits. They come in two basic colors, blue and tan, and when you look at them individually, every blue seersucker looks like every other blue seersucker, every tan like every other tan. But try to get a new pair of blue seersucker pants to go with your still-good seersucker jacket. What you find is a thousand different variations on an apparently standard design. Every one is different, though none of the differences is worth a dime. Why do they do it?

I used to think it was a trick to force me to replace the whole suit when any part of it went threadbare, a sneaky way of increasing sales. But that can't be it. My wife has almost a full set of green enamel pots which she would like to complete. But the manufacturer no longer makes them in green. Red, yes, and brown and yellow and blue, but no more green. Surely they don't expect my wife to toss out all her green pots and start all over again. So why did they stop making green? More to the point, why did the government let them?

I have a friend whose Brown Jordan lawn chairs are in a color called putty. When she tried to add a few more last summer, she discovered that the company no longer makes putty.

Another friend finally found a lipstick that is perfect for her complexion: something called Orpheus Red. Naturally Dior doesn't make it any more.

Ditto for my brown and tan basement floor tiles. Naturally I'm not about to rip up the whole floor because three tiles are broken, so as a result I'm stuck with an unsightly basement floor, probably forever. A government truly concerned about the welfare of its citizens would haul Armstrong into court and make the company either stop making tiles of almost the right color or else redo my entire floor.

I'm not suggesting that the government protect idiots. Obviously anyone who goes out and buys refrigerators or wall paneling or three- piece suits in puce or mauve or magenta is beyond protection. I'm talking about sensible people like my wife, who bought our everyday dishes in plain, unadorned white, only to find that when the kids did what kids do, white isn't necessarily white. There's off-white, near-white, ivory and a dozen other whites that don't quite match the white we have.

I think I'll write the Bureau of Standards.