"The Incredible Bread Machine" is a half-hour documentary that intersperses commentary with reenactments of real events to drive home a single message to its viewers: the government intrudes too much on the lives of Americans.

The opening sequence shows Internal Revenue Service agents swooping down on an Amish farmer and confiscating his horses to satisfy the government's claim for Social Security taxes that the farmer had withheld for religious reasons.

"The Incredible Bread Machine" may not be a household word in Washington, D.C., but its sponsors at the Campus Studies Institue in San Diego claim that it has been seen by 25 million Americans. Some 250 television stations have aired it and thousands of high school and college students have viewed it.

President-elect Ronald Reagan is one of the film's enthusiastic fans. In his radio broadcasts in 1977 he praised the institute for "countering the economic fairy tales that abound in our schools and on our campuses."

The Campus Studies Institute is one small part of a far-reaching conservative landscape that has been brought into sharp relief by Reagan's victory in November.

This landscape, much of it overlookedby liberals until their November election debacle, is made up of an extensive and well-financed network of think tanks in Washington and New York, natioanl magazines, organizations that crank out research on dozens of public policy issues or spread the conservative messge on campuses, and activist legal groups that help corporations fight government regulation.

These organizations run across the whole politcal spectrum of the right. They include established scholarly centers such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution as well as West Coast bastions of libertarianism such as the Cato Institute for Humane Studies.

Some -- the Institute for Contemporory Economic Studies, the National Strategy Information Center, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis -- are overflowing with eggheads and Ivy League types. Many more are small, conservative bucket shops, often focusing on some special issue: the Fiscal Policy Council; the Committee on Total Energy; the Institute for Liberty and Community.

Leopold Tyrmand, a Polish emigre who is part of the conservative network as editor of the Rockford Papers, published in Rockford, Ill., describes it as a "second culture," which has develeoped "its own system of communication by way of newletters, periodicals, scholarly journals, lecture circuts, academic organizations, literary reviews, conferences, seminars, etc."

This network's source of funding is not the Rockefeller or Ford money that aided the spread of liberal ideology in the 1960s, but the money of another constellation of entrepreneurs: Coors, Noble, Olin, Richardson and others.

But even though money and modern public relations are part of the reason for the increasing visibility and success of conservative propaganda and ideas, more is involved than the clever manipulation of public opinion. Many of the people manning the organizations are young, idelaistic and committed. In that respect thay have captured the momentum of political idealism from the liberals and left-wingDemocrats who made a deep commitment to civil rights, women's rights and a more humane foreign policy in the 1960s.

The conventional wisdom about many issues appears to be changing in the United States. And there is no doubt that the conservative network now provides the intelectual underpinning for these shifts.

A few years ago, people advocating a return to the gold standard were considered cranks. Today New York businessman Lewis E. Lehrman, founder of the Lehrman Institute, argues on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal for a new "hard money" policy based on gold/dollar convertibility and gains adherants amongEstablishment economists.

In the 1960s, environmental issues often were seen in black/white, good-versus-evil terms. But because of the work of conservative economic analysts and conservative "public interest" legal advocates, the economic cost of new regulation is now routinely factored into environmental decision making.

For most of its life, the 60-year-old Natioal Bureau of Economic Research in Boston was a respectable Establishment economic think tank. But in the last few years its new president, Martin S. Felstein, has turned it into a forum for airing controversial ideas, such as the concept the Social Security withholding siphons money out of private savings and productive investment.

A decade ago nobody could have imagined scores of black Americans showing up at a meeting sponsored by a conservative think tank. But this is what happened when the Institute of Comtemporary Affairs held a conference on minority issues in San Francisco just last month.

As these few examples suggest, the conservative network is critical in the struggle to win the "hearts and minds" of Americans in the 1980s.

Irving Kristol, the neoconservative intellectual who edits The Public Interest magazine, says a "war of ideas" has been going on in the United States with conservative ideas now holding the upper hand.

"The Democrats has a dynamic decade between '65 and '80," he says. "But it used up all the party's energy and ideas. We're so unused to seeing a Republican Party with ideas that we feel revolutionary. The GOP hasn't before been the party of the intellectuals, to put it mildly. But this is where the ideas are now."

In building an intellectual apparatus, conservatives are quick to acknowledge that they copied many of the techniques of their adversaries, the liberals.

After World War II, well-heeled foundations such as Ford and Rockefeller channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into the Brookings Institution and other intellectual centers that viewed an activist federal government as the route to national progress. For the most part big business, attracted by the internatioanlist strains in dogma, was supportive. When the tumoil jof the 1960's erupted, philanthropy poured money into the "public interest" movement, supporting environmentalists, consumer protectionists, civil rights and the women's movement.

But with economic difficulties of the 1970s and growing corporate concern over regulation and government deficts, conservative organizations increasingly became the beneficiaries of corporate and philanthropic largess.

This marked a drastic change from the early history of the conservative "movement," as Republican intellectuals and activists describe it.

When World War II ended, there were a few scattered conservative centers, but certainly no "movement." The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919 with a gift from Herbert Hoover, labored under the burden of a narrow interpretation of its mandate "to demonstrate the evils of the doctrines of Karl Marx."

In Washington, the American Enterprise Institute, founded in 1943 by a businessman concerned that policy makers were not adequately well versed in free market economics, slowly prospered thanks to the efforts of the late William Baroody Sr. It was Baroody and retired Adm. Arleigh Burke who were instrumental in setting up a spinoff organization, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Georgetown University think tank that packs major influence in defense and foreign policy.

In Bryn Mawr, Pa., the Intercollegiate Studies Institute was founded in 1952, with William Buckley as its first president, and began developing membership on campuses. Some of its early members included Richard V. Allen, Reagan's national security adviser, and Edwin J. Fuelner Jr., now president of the Heritage Foundation.

With the 1964 Republican presidential nomination of Sen. Barry Goldwater the "movement" gained serious recognition for the first time and began to shed its image as a fringe group composed of trigger-happy generals and members of the John Birch Society.

But it was the 1970s, with its rising anxiety about the economy, big government, the Soviet threat and the overall drift of liberal policy that provided the strongest boost to the expansion of the conservative network. Groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Institute for Contemporary Studies (founded by Reaganites such as Edwin Meese III and Caspar W. Weinberger), the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, and dozens of others were founded in that decade.

This development was made possible in part by a change in the policies of foundations and corporations about supporting public affairs activities, especially conservative ones.

"For a long while you could not get money out of conservative businessmen," says Washington public relations executive Hugh C. Newton, who represents the Heritage Foundation. "H. L. Hunt would take you to lunch and give you a ham sandwich out of his desk. Now you've got people interested in building the network, in changing the American mind."

Ten years ago, for example, the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation in Pittsburgh, with assets of nearly $100 million, gave mainly to traditional community causes such as the opera and the United Negro College Fund Today its list of "public affairs" recipients reads like a Who's Who of the conservative network, a shift reflecting the interests of Richard Mellon Scaife, the foundation's chairman and a Republican campaign contributor.

Institute for Contemporary Studies, Hoover, Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mid-America Legal Foundation. Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation, Freedoms Foundation Center for Entrepreneurial Development, Council for Basic Education, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Law and Economic Center, and the Center for the Study of American Business.

The recent aggressiveness of the John M. Olin Foundation is another sign that entrepreneurial money is increasingly willing to support organizations of the right. In 1977, industrialist John M. Olin, then 84, brought in former treasury secretary William E. Simon as president.

"Bill Simon is determined to get results out of our grantees," says the foundation's director, Michael Joyce.

Joyce sees the swing as natural.

"When foundations started they did a lot of things that since have been taken over by the government, such as medical and health. Now they're sensitive to the need to protect the private sector. I think people are convinced that bureaucracy has run amok. The right is protecting the ideas of Burke and De Tocqueville."

At the same time, more corporate funds have been freed up for organizations supporting the right and leading conservatives are preparing to exploit this changed mood to the maximum. Two years ago Simon, Irving Kristol and Jeremiah Millbank, whose father was a close friend of Herbert Hoover, helped found the Institute for Educational Affairs in New York City to line up corporate money that the institute will channel to public interest, policy and research groups on the right.

"The intellectual climate has changed," says Kristol. "Corporations are timid creatures. They used to give mindlessly. But they've seen that ideas are important and they want to get involved."

The American Enterprise Institute, which has almost doubled its annual operating budget from $6 million to $10 million since the last presidential election, has received $1 million bequests from each of four companies. Weyerhaeuser, Potlatch, Ford and the Reader's Digest, to support permanent chairs there. The corporate share of AEI's revenue has climbed from 25 percent to 40 percent since 1976.

For corporations, gifts to nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations such as AEI are tax deductible and less sensitive than political contributions.

"Nobody goes to jail for violating the law on gifts to tax-exempt organizations," said a Washington attorney who once worked in the exempt organizations division of the Internal Revenue Service and now gives private counsel.

The law prohibits tax-exempt groups from intervening or participating in election campaigns, and from devoting more than 20 percent of their work to lobbying on legislation. But given today's special-interest politics, U.S. officials say it is very difficult to determine when the between lobbying and tax-exempt activities has been crossed.

A fund appeal mailed Dec. 10 by President John M. Fisher of the American Security Council Foundation of Boston, Va., solicits "fully deductible" contributions to a $5 million fund drive to support its Project Survival television campaign.

"We need a national TV rotating fund NOW of $5,000,000 for showing our TV documentaries, plus spot TV commercials, for dramatic impact throughout our land, and correspondingly in Washington," it says. Large TV viewership "will give pro-defense forces the advantage over the anti-defense lobby," and it concludes: "Our hope for survival at this late hour rests squarely with an outraged and activated American public supporting President-elect Reagan in implementing a national policy of Peace Through Strength."

Aggressive marketing and promotion is a hallmark of the conservative network, just as these techniques were used successfully by new-right political activists in the campaign.

"It's well and good to say ideas are important but even good ideas need marketing," says H. Monroe Browne, president of San Francisco's Institute for Contemporary Affairs. Browne shoots for a sale of at least 10,000 copies of each major study and estimates the institute is selling 500 to 1,000 copies a week.

But Browne says that a more important reason for the institute's success is its willingness to debate liberals and provide a forum for bipartisan discussion. The institute "does nothing that isn't built on a serious academic basis."

One hope of the conservatives is that this intellectual activity is filtering down to the campuses and creating a new generation of committed young people for the movement. Chairs of "private enterprise," and campus institutes aimed at "giving youth a true picture of the connection between capitalism and liberty," have sprouted on a number of campuses. In 1969, in the thick of the student rebellion, businessman Theodor (Ted) Loeffler founded World Research Inc., in Menlo Park, Calif., "out of concern students were not getting all the facts."

Similarly, just as Berkely became synonymous with the intellectual life of the left in the 1960s, so have some colleges become closely associated with intellectual ferment on the right.

One is Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich. Its president, George Roche, drew national headlines when he refused to accept federal aid. Roche also set up the Center for Constructive Alternatives, which publishes Imprimis, and has attracted bright young students from the East Coast with a conservative bent.

Whether this flowering will be short-lived or whether, as the right hopes, it will be only the beginning of a long regnum of conservative thought is still to be decided. And conservatives, who have spent so many years out of power, are surprisingly guarded in their predictions.

"To create change you need three conditions," says Lehrman. "The old gods have to fail. The logical argument and empirical justification for change must be made. And there must be a political leadership bold enough to make it happen. So far the first two have been met. The jury is still out on the third."