Friends of freedom have lost a friend. Martin Anderson, 78, a Hoover Institution scholar and policy advisor to presidents, has passed away. Among his achievements were helping to eliminate the military draft and heading off a national ID card.
Anderson was a life-long fighter for freedom. From the 1960s he was part of Ayn Rand’s New York circle and he helped make real the principles of individual liberty and limited that she espoused.
In his 1964 book The Federal Bulldozer: A Critical Analysis of Urban Renewal, 1942-1962 Anderson demonstrated how government policy was actually destroying affordable housing and at huge taxpayer expense.
Anderson was a leading advocate of eliminating the military draft. In 1968 he was instrumental in persuading then-candidate Richard Nixon to make replacing conscription with an all-volunteer army a central part of his presidential campaign. Nixon carried through on that promise, at least.
Anderson made his mark as domestic policy advisor for Ronald Reagan. For example, at a cabinet meeting early in Reagan’s first term, Attorney General William French Smith presented a plan to require a national ID card for anyone working in the United States, in part to deal with illegal immigrants.
Anderson, who normally didn’t speak at those meetings, raised his hand and, when called on by Reagan, explained that such a card could easily be faked or lost. So why not tattoo a number on everyone’s wrist? Reagan immediately understood the illusion to Nazi practices and the threat such a “Papers please” dictate would pose to liberty. The proposal died there and then.
Anderson, a trustee of the Ronald Reagan Library, documented the achievements of the Reagan administration in his aptly-titled book Revolution . And as a Reagan biographer with his wife Annelise, he set the record straight about the country’s 40th president.
For example, Reagan, a hardline anti-communist, was perceived by many as a war-monger. But when I visited Anderson’s Hoover Institute office in the mid-2000s, he explained to me that too few people appreciated just how strongly Reagan had as a top priority—along with cutting taxes and eliminating government intrusion in the economy—eliminating the possibility of nuclear war. Before Reagan was elected, America practiced a strategy of “mutual assured destruction.” The notion was that if the Soviets launched a nuclear attack on the United States, this country would retaliate by destroying every major Soviet city. Both countries would be destroyed and fear of such a holocaust would keep the country safe.
Reagan rejected this “balance of terror” strategy. With the Strategic Defense Initiative he sought to create a system to protect American cities by shooting down incoming Soviet nukes. And on a parallel track he sought to negotiate actual reductions in the number of nuclear weapons, not out of a naïve view of benevolent Communist leaders but under the sound principle of “trust but verify.”
Martin and Annelise documented the Gipper’s success in their 2010 book Reagan's Secret War: The Untold Story of His Fight to Save the World from Nuclear Disaster .
Anderson’s scholarly work also included Welfare: The Political Economy of Welfare Reform in the United States published in 1978, a few years before he brought his insights to the Reagan administration. And his 1992 book Impostors in the Temple: The Decline of the American University called attention to a reality that is all-too clear to day. In the words of the book’s subtitle, “American intellectuals are destroying our universities and cheating our students of their future.” We're living that future now and seeing the effects that Anderson predicted.
Martin Anderson’s was a life of the mind and a life of achievement. His life should be celebrated and he will be missed.
Hudgins is Director of Advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society. Posted January 5, 2015.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.