The constitutional principles of limited government:- The American Constitution is based on the seven basic principles that reflect the ideology of the Founders and their vision of having a stable and safe future for the people of America. These principles are Separation of Power, Popular Sovereignty, Limited Government, Federalism, Checks and Balances, Individual Rights, and Republicanism.
Before the American Constitution, The United States of America was governed by the Articles of Confederation. It was evident in the initial years that due to the hesitation of the history with the British empire, the Americans were not inclined to have a strong Executive at the Centre and this system was not working for America. In this blog, we will focus on the two principles which are “limited government” and “popular sovereignty” and their application.
The Development of the Constitutional Principles
Once it was realized that the Articles of Confederation were not working for the United States of America in the late 1780s, the framers debated at the Constitutional Convention over the constitutional principles.
The common solution achieved by such debates was the idea of different branches of government which will perform their unique functions with checks and balances on the other branches of the government.
The legislature will make laws, the executive will implement them and the judiciary will interpret the laws and will review the actions of the executive. This led to the development of the idea of separation of power with checks and balances and other constitutional principles.
Americans having a sour history with the British King wanted to avoid the possibility of having an autocratic future for the people of America. This led to the inception of a limited government system in America. Limited government means that the government will have the powers which are given by the Constitution and nothing else.
It is based on the idea of the rule of law, that everyone must obey the law. Whether it is you, your elected representative, judges, or the President of America, everyone is under an obligation to follow the law.
The nations that follow the values of Limited Government have laws that rarely interfere with the actions of individuals.
There are various characteristics of a limited government, such as providing fundamental human rights to its citizens, protecting individuals from government actions, living constitution, decentralisation of power, etc.
One of the characteristics of a limited government is that it will be found in countries that are democratic. Hence, it can be concluded that the exact opposite of limited government is authoritarianism.
The Framers drafted the Constitution in the year 1787 and during that era, the heads of governments throughout the world largely used to claim that they derived their power from God. A revolutionary idea was incorporated by the Framers. The Preamble of the American Constitution provides the phrase, “We the people”.
This means that the government in America derives its powers from the people of America; which ultimately means that it is the people of America that enjoy the sovereignty as they have the right to abolish or alter the government. According to this principle, the government is created by the will of the people.
The United States of America is a prime example of popular sovereignty. In the Declaration of Independence, it was stated that only those governments are legitimate which derive their powers from the people.
Application of These Principles in America
It is true that all seven constitutional principles together are very important for the overall governance of the United States of America. There is no doubt that these principles are of paramount importance in their individual capacity but it is also true that these principles cannot survive without the application of others. Out of these seven principles, you got to know about the two prime principles in this blog namely, limited government and popular sovereignty. Let’s discuss their application now.
The constitutional principles of limited government and popular sovereignty apply to all three government levels in America. In America, there are three levels of government, National, State, and Local level.
This means that the principle of limited government applies at the National, State, and Local Level. All these governments at different levels are limited and will operate as per their demarcation of power which is limited. Hence, there are no chances of authoritarianism in these different levels of government.
Similarly, the principle of popular sovereignty also applies to all three levels of government. The governments at the national, state, and local levels derive their power from the people only. It is the will of the people whether to abolish or alter the governments at these levels. Popular sovereignty means the person with the most votes has won the elections. So, whether the elections are at the national, state, or local level, the idea of popular sovereignty exists.
On a general level, these constitutional principles of limited government and popular sovereignty apply to a country that is democratic, and federal and believes in the idea of separation of power.
Q1. What is the relationship between popular sovereignty and the American Constitution?
The principle of popular sovereignty is reflected in the preamble of the American Constitution as it provides these words, “We the People”. This shows that the ultimate power in America lies with the people of America and every government derives power from the people of America only.
Q.2 Where do the constitutional principles of limited government and popular sovereignty apply?
These principles apply at all three different levels of government in America namely, the National, State, and Local Level. From the Mayor to the President of America, all are elected keeping in mind these constitutional principles.