CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA — Charleston, South Carolina.---HOW SHALL WE give thanks for our Constitution, our freedoms, our good land and productive economic system? We pay taxes, of course, to support public institutions. We give money to the United Way. More than 2 million men and women serve in the all-volunteer armed services. Teachers, nurses, volunteer firemen, the members of rescue squads -- all of them give more than they receive.
William F. Buckley Jr. in his new book ''Gratitude'' proposes to create new ways by which Americans, especially young Americans, may say thanks for the heritage. He makes no claim for originality: Proposals for some sort of universal community service have been around for years. The Peace Corps, in which 121,000 persons have served, provides one opportunity. The VISTA program is another.
Mr. Buckley believes that given an opportunity, millions of young people would volunteer for a year of service to their country. What they need are new ''avenues for the expression of the altruistic impulse.'' Through a combination of positive and negative inducements -- tax credits, lower interest rates, preferential status in college enrollment -- adding a note of pragmatism to altruism, a national program could be set in motion.