Limited Government in the Constitution

Limited Government in the Constitution:- The definition of limited government is based on the principles of the rule of law, democracy, and separation of power. Limited government acts as a restraint upon the powers of the government by putting some restrictions on the different branches of law. So how exactly does a country ensure this idea of limited government? The limitations on the different branches of the government are generally documented in the Constitution of a country. 

One of the greatest achievements of this modern era is incorporating the idea of limited government within the overall functioning of a nation. Limited government is anti-autocratic, it promotes the idea of avoiding the principle of concentration of power. One of the most prominent examples of limited government is the United States of America. In this blog, you will get to know about the definition, origin, characteristics, and importance of limited government.

Definition of Limited Government in the Constitution

Simply put, a limited government can be defined as a political structure under which according to a set of rules, there is a limitation on the government’s power to avoid autocratic abuse. An example of such a structure would be a nation having democracy in its governance system. It prevents the concentration of power in one person or a group. 

The only objective of incorporating limited government in the constitution of a country is to make the legislature, executive heads, and judiciary abide by the law. The scope of this idea of limited government does not limit itself to the principle of democracy, it also promotes the idea of a welfare society, with minimum taxes on the people required for the government’s functioning.

To understand the term better, one can say, that authoritarian government is the opposite of a limited government. However, this does not mean that there is no control of the government on its citizens.       

Historical Background 

There is no denying that the modern world is witnessing the ideas of democracy, separation of power with checks and balances, and limited government in the constitutions of various nations throughout the world. But the credit must be given where it is due. The liberal era in Europe that stressed the idea of basic fundamental rights of an individual led to such development of a limited government system in the modern world.

One of the oldest written documents that one may refer to learn about the origin of limited government is the Magna Carta (1215). The document set restrictions on the power of the English King and set the ideas of limited government in motion throughout the world. 

American founders took inspiration from this document and drafted their Constitution in 1787 in line with the principles of the Magna Carta. Not only this, but the Constitution of America divided the power between the Federal Government and States, and provided the duties and powers of the three different branches of government, Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary, so that, there is no concentration of power in one single person or group. 

Limited Government: Characteristics

The following points will help you understand the characteristics of a limited government: 

1. Democratic structure: A democratic structure is mostly based on the principles of a limited government. The leaders in such a system with limited powers perform various duties to improve the overall well-being of their countries. 

2. Fundamental Human Rights: The core aim of countries with limited government structures is to secure fundamental human rights for their citizens. For example, in America, the Bill of Rights secures human rights. There is a basic structure of their constitution which the government is forbidden to change or amend in order to secure these fundamental human rights.  

3. Protection from government actions: The countries following such a government structure aim to protect their citizens from the possible coercive actions of the government. For example, the 4th Amendment in the Constitution of the United States of America puts a restriction on the government from unreasonable search and seizure.

4. Living Constitution: Usually, the Constitution is considered as a “living constitution” that grows with society. It must be amended from time to time with the ever-changing society.

5. Decentralisation of power: The aim is to divide the various functions of a government into different branches. Such as the legislature will make laws, the executive will implement them, and the judiciary will judge and interpret the laws. 

Importance of Limited Government

Limited government in the Constitution enables basic human rights and guarantees freedom to citizens. It helps in promoting the idea of democracy so that even the marginalised section of society is being heard. This system completely abolishes any chance of the potential risk of dictatorship. Since the limited government are usually democratic, it helps in keeping the government accountable for its action.

It promotes the idea of the rule of law, which provides that no one is above the law and every individual operates within the bounds created by law. It also promotes the idea of equality of law and resources, no one can be favoured or discriminated against.


Q. 1 What is the historical development of the idea of limited government?

The Magna Carta can be given credit for developing the idea of limited government throughout the globe. This was not the only source, there were various legal luminaries in history who promoted the ideas of limited government such as John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, etc.  

Q. 2 What are the features of a limited government?

The following are some features of a limited government: –
– Separation of power
– Democracy
– Basic human rights
– Laissez-faire 
– Rule of law

Q. 3 Give a classic example of limited government.

The United States of America is a classic example of limited government. From the Bill of Rights to the Separation of Power, to democracy, the U.S. has it all. 

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