ON THE far right, there is fear and loathing that the secretary of state is -- are you ready for a shocker? -- taking over the State Department. Such an evil design is discerned in the policies being planned for the second Reagan term and, specifically, in the people being put in place in the department to carry them out. The trend appears firm, and it is confirming the apprehensions of those who feel that Secretary Shultz does not share the vision the ultra-conservatives had in mind when they voted for Ronald Reagan.

Which is -- fortunately, by our lights -- true: He seems to want to get some diplomatic business done. When President Reagan asked him to stay on, he was in a position to say he needed to have control of personnel in his department. A new term is a natural occasion for rotation and weeding out, and that factor, combined with Secretary Shultz's take-charge mood, is opening up a fairly large bloc of important diplomatic jobs -- six assistant secretaryships, key embassy positions and others.

Some of Ronald Reagan's and, even more, some of George Shultz's critics on the right are now mustering a challenge to certain of these appointments. At the White House, those who are exercised seem to be confining themselves for the moment just to leaking their grumbles. In January we can expect to learn what Sen. Jesse Helms intends to do to ensure the ideological purity of foreign policy appointees in the second Reagan term. More interestingly, we may learn whether the new Foreign Relations chairman, Richard Lugar, intends to allow Mr. Helms to run the committee.

The issue of foreign policy staffing is usually described as a choice between cautious, probably liberal career diplomats pursuing the policy of the "permanent government" and political appointees directly responsive to the policy desires of the eleced president. Critics such as the Heritage Foundation, for instance, see Mr. Shultz as having been preempted by Foreign Service smoothies.

This seems to us quite silly. We think Mr. Shultz is helping his chief define feasible second-term goals and, in so doing, calling upon broad career experience to put people he respects -- some from the Foreign Service and some not -- into useful place. There are worse calamities than having the secretary of state run the State Department.