Just when we had almost forgotten a supposedly endangered species - the British quango - it turns out to have a little life in it yet. Perhaps that is not surprising, since it appears to be a distant cousin of the American boondoggle, which is kept very much alive by numerous beneficiaries.

At least Prime Minister Thatcher seems to detect a certain element of boondoggle or unproductive effort in many quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations), which include the advisory bodies attached to various ministries. Only last week, in the kind of report familiar to cost-conscious leaders anywhere, she was said to have been thwarted in her efforts to make drastic quango cuts.

Ministers were blamed for failing to stand up to civil servants who ''have learnt to love their quangos.''

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Maybe she simply needs to think as big as her friend across the Atlantic, President Reagan, who evidently sees whole departments - Energy, Education - as quangos ripe for the harvest.

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