Martin Anderson, a conservative and libertarian-leaning intellectual who was a key adviser to Republican presidents and was credited with providing many of the ideas and arguments that created America’s all-volunteer military, died Jan. 3 at his home in Portola Valley, Calif. He was 78.
The Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where Dr. Anderson had been a senior fellow since 1971, announced his death but did not cite a cause.
During the presidential campaign years of 1967 and 1968, Dr. Anderson provided GOP candidate Richard M. Nixon with proposals that helped end the military draft and replace it with the volunteer force that in recent generations has been the basis of American defense and the underpinning of American foreign policy.
Dr. Anderson also was the first domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, becoming known as a member of the close circle of aides who set the ideological tone for Reagan’s administration in the 1980s.
One of the pioneering chroniclers of American politics, Theodore H. White, noted Dr. Anderson’s prominent position in Washington’s highest councils, those places “where ideas intersect with actions.”
In his book “America in Search of Itself,” White described Dr. Anderson as having been enlisted from the academic world to become in time “Reagan’s Seeing Eye dog . . . a one-man warehouse of facts . . . guiding [Reagan] to that growing minority revolting against the dominant liberal ideas that reigned on American campuses.”
A bespectacled man with a skeptical glance who swam against prevailing currents of academic opinion, Dr. Anderson over the years held many titles in Washington that suggested his proximity to power but did not always reveal the influence he wielded.
In the Nixon White House from 1969 to 1970, he was special assistant to the president and later a special consultant to the president. After being Reagan’s chief adviser on domestic policy, he served as a member of the president’s Economic Policy Advisory Board from 1982 to 1989.
From 1987 through 1993, during the later Reagan years and throughout the succeeding administration of President George H.W. Bush, Dr. Anderson sat on the president’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control.
In addition, he was a trustee of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and, from 1993 to 1998, served on the California Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Besides supplying advice to other Republican aspirants and administrations, Dr. Anderson was a longtime fellow at the Hoover Institution, the think tank on the Stanford campus that has been an incubator of conservative thought and scholarship.
One of the acts for which Dr. Anderson is best known, the abolition of the draft, was perhaps his boldest argument. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, opponents of the conflict focused much of their attention on the draft. The burning of draft cards became a symbol of resistance to the government’s policy.
Those who opposed the draft most vigorously were often considered to have liberal or leftist political inclinations.
It was true, as some historians have noted, that conscription was never part of the nation’s traditions or principles. Nevertheless, maintaining the draft seemed to many to be a requisite for providing the president with the power to protect the nation’s interests.
Thus, to many unfamiliar with the full range of debate on the subject, it seemed surprising for a conservative candidate or his advisers to urge abandoning a system that appeared to be part of the bedrock of the nation.
But in 1967, Nixon named Dr. Anderson, then on the business faculty at Columbia University in New York, to be his research director. In April of that year, according to “I Want You!: The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force,” Dr. Anderson sent Nixon a memo arguing for the volunteer military.
A more thorough discussion followed a few months later, according to the book’s authors, Bernard D. Rostker and K.C. Yeh.
In the 1968 campaign, Nixon said that a system that seemed arbitrary in its selection of some but not others “cannot be squared with our whole concept of liberty, justice and equality under the law.”
Such ideas appeared to demonstrate the influence on conservative thought of the libertarian strain, which was identified not only with author and philosopher Ayn Rand but also with economists including Milton Friedman and emphasized an effort to expand individual freedom.
Studies of the development of American thought at the time have identified Dr. Anderson as being in sympathy with ideas advocated by Rand.
However, Dr. Anderson was regarded as anything but an ivory-tower intellectual, mocked and marginalized by pragmatists and deprived of influence on presidential thinking and acting.
Instead, scholars regarded him as a symbol of the intellectual who understood power and its uses. He was seen as a conservative counterpart of the professors who trooped to Washington from college campuses to provide ideas to Democratic administrations.
In a letter written while still a candidate, Reagan said that except in times of the most severe national emergency, a draft or draft registration “destroys the very values our society is committed to defending.”
“I Want You!” describes those words as most likely written by Dr. Anderson.
Martin Carl Anderson was born Aug. 5, 1936, in the Lowell, Mass., area on the dairy farm operated by his father. After his parents divorced, he and his mother, a nurse, left to live with his grandparents.
He was taught to read by his grandfather, a foundry worker, who used comic books to ignite his grandson’s intellectual curiosity.
An accomplished athlete and student in high school, he won a full scholarship to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He obtained an undergraduate degree in 1957 and studied business administration and engineering for a master’s degree at Dartmouth in 1958.
After Army service, he earned a doctorate in industrial management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1962 and then joined the faculty at Columbia. While there, he published “The Federal Bulldozer” (1964), a critical study of federal urban-renewal policy. Belief in the benefits of such policy was an article of faith among many in the academic world.
Vigorous debate prompted by his book helped raise his public profile, and his leanings and capacities brought him to Nixon’s attention.
In 1965, he married Annelise Graebner. Besides his wife, survivors include a half-brother.
Often in conjunction with his wife, Dr. Anderson was the author or editor of a series of books about politics, policy and the Reagan years. Volumes including “Revolution” (1988), “Reagan, in His Own Hand” (2001) and “Reagan’s Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World From Nuclear Disaster” (2009) presented the president as a deft writer and savvy thinker on a wide range of issues.
In his Washington Post review of “Reagan, in His Own Hand,” political journalist Lou Cannon wrote that whatever one’s views of Reagan’s policies or core beliefs, the book “drives a stake into the heart of the notion that the president was any kind of dunce.”