Economics over politics, ""the public interest"" over private interest. Writer/researcher Navarre's assumption is that ""economic analysis can serve as the final arbiter of many policy disputes among special interests and ideologues""; his illustrations range from rent control to protectionism, farm policy, electric utility rates, the equal rights amendment, and the defense budget. And some of the separate examples have merit. But this is also a fevered pitch for naked technocracy: reliant on statistics (necessarily, somebody's statistics), executive decision (over congressional compromise), and model behavior (acceptance of what the figures, interpreted by the experts, deem in the public interest). Take protectionism, which follows categorization of private-interest lobbies. Navarro goes through a fairly elaborate demonstration of who-stands-where in the protectionist policy game (""the capture-ideology framework""), and a review of the economics of protectionism, to conclude, inevitably, that free trade is the best policy. ""One must not be so naive as to assume, however, that even perfectly informed consumers will rise up to defeat the forces of protectionism."" No, trade policy should somehow fall solely to the executive branch--which should press for loophole tightening in GATT, process unfair-competition claims more quickly, and increase the retraining of displaced workers. Unsaid: why any Congress would hand over control of trade policy; why foreign governments, subsidizing domestic industry, would suddenly (at political peril) become GATT purists; what would happen to an Administration, or a Congress, elected by protectionist interests. Elsewhere, Navarre makes various kinds of sense. His findings on Cambridge, Mass., rent control (based on Chamber of Commerce statistics) may or may not be conclusive, but his alternatives-for-a-liberal-community--notably, cash subsidies or rent stamps--are worth a thought. He's pro-ERA (""more of a zero-sum issue"" than the others) on the basis of systematic discrimination against women, and for a ""hi-lo"" defense strategy that balances ""complexity with reliability."" Impartially applied, Navarre's formula does shake things up a bit. And publicity, plus liberal and conservative endorsements, may get him a short-term hearing.