Martin Carl Anderson, President-elect Reagan's choice as chief domestic policy adviser, is a longtime member of the Reagan inner circle. But quite apart from his association with Reagan, he has a strongly held and often published social philosophy that has given him a high-profile reputation of his own controversial conservative thinker.

Anderson, 44, is an economist who has built his academic career around attacking the federal government's social welfare programs, which he says have "virtually wiped out poverty in the United States" and not actually hurt poor people more than they help them.

He is described by friends as a libertarian who in younger days was an admirer of the novelist Ayn Rand and still believes that the role of the federal government in all areas of American life should be severaly limited.

Thus has been a strong opponent not only of government social programs but also of military conscription. He is credited with having kept firm Reagan's opposition to the draft in the face of pressure from military hard-liners advising the present-elect who want to reinstitute it.

At the same time, he is likely also to be unsympathetic to the New Right's desire for increased government involvement in such social issues as abortion and school prayer. And he is regarded by devotees of "supply-side" economics as something less than a true believer ion the healing power of broad personal income tax cuts on the economy.

What he is for, if his writings are any indication, is less government.

This will be Anderson's second tour on the White House staff. A 1964 book attacking urban renewal brought him to the attention of Richard Nixon, and he was an early member of Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign. He went into the first Nixon administration as deputy to Arthur Burns when Burns was counselor to the president.

He is still close to Burns, and to another prominent government economist of the Nixon-Ford years, Alan Greenspan.

After Burns became chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in 1970, Anderson stayed on at the White House for another year with the title of special consultant for systems analysis, and was a leading architect of the all-volunteer Army. But he reportedly soon grew frustrated with life in the Nixon White House.

He left in 1971 to become a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a bastion of intellectual support for Reagan. He was Reagan's issues adviser in the 1976 campaign, and held a similar position this year.

Anderson was born in Lowell, Mass. on Aug. 5, 1936. He was graduated from Dartmouth College in 1957, got a master's degree there, served in the Army, and got his Ph.D. in industrial management from MIT. He taught business and finance at Columbia University from 1962 until he joined the government.

He has been married for 21 years to the former Annelise Graebner, who now works in the office of presidential personnel at the Reagan transition. They have no children.

The work of Anderson's that has attracted the most attention is his 1978 book "Welfare: The Political Economy of Welfare Reform in the U.s." The book is an intricately reasoned argument against current goverment welfare policies, and unlike most academic works, it has had a direct effect on government.

It was published at the time of President Carter's welfare reform proposals, and by winning the favorable attention of Sen. Russell Long (D-La.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, it played a part in the scrapping of a Carter proposal for a modified guaranteed annual income. Long bought 40 copies of Anderson's book, which stronly opposes a guaranteed income, and distributed them to members of the Finance Committee.

The book represented a shift of sorts in the conservative agrument against welfare.

Traditionally, conservatives have objected to welfare because of its cost to taxpayers and because of an abstract distaste for government handouts. But Anderson's case against welfare was made on behalf of welfare recipients; he said welfare impeded their progress in the world. So his book made it possible for conservatives to say they were opposing welfare out of genuine compassion -- an emotion liberals have for years claimed as exclusively their own.

Anderson argued first that the extent of poverty in America is now much less than in commonly thought, because statistics on the subject don't take sufficiently into account non-cash benefits like Medicaid. Second, he argued that welfare programs create such a powerful disincentive to work -- because earning money means sharp reductions in benefits -- that they create a "poverty wall" around recipients.

"With scarcely anyone noticing it," he wrote, "the poor people in this country have been deeply entangled in a welfare system that is rapidly strangling any incentive they may have had to help themselves and their families by working to increase their incomes."