Limited Government


The government refers to procedures and formal institutions through which a given territory and its people are ruled. It can also be defined as a system of rule that governs a society or community. There are several types of governments such as the authoritarian, totalitarian, and democratic governments. A democratic system, in contrast to the others, is governed by a constitution that places a limit on the powers of the government and therefore, a limited government.  The US government has a democratic government with a constitution that fosters such a limited government.

The concept of limited government means that the constitution defines and limits or restricts the powers of such a government. This forms one of the basis through which a democracy thrives on. A limited government is achieved through a well-defined constitution that allows public participation in the politics and the government at large and provides for the liberty of the citizens.

The US constitution has made provisions for the Federal and the state governments. This system of government where power is constitutionally divided between a central government and regional governments is known as federalism. The government has three branches including the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. The constitution has assigned separate powers for each of these branches. This division of governmental power among several institutions that must work together is referred to as the principle of separation of powers. This structure is what provides checks and balances in the US government whereby each of the three branches is able to participate in and influence activities of the other branches. This limiting of power facilitates a limited government.

The legislative branch consists of the Congress that consists of two chambers, the House of Representatives and Senate as provided for by article I of the constitution. They are charged with the role of promoting popular consent for the government as well as placing a limit on the government powers as this would threaten economic and social order. The executive or Presidency under article II enjoys certain formidable powers such as the veto power which can however still be overridden by two-thirds vote of the Senate. The Judicial Branch under article III is a check on too much democracy. Under this branch is the Supreme Court of the United States. This court ensures a smooth operation of Federalism by resolving any conflicts between the Federal and state laws. It also prevents the national government from interfering with the liberty of the people.

The method to maintain the separation is known as checks and balances. This is to mean that other than the powers assigned to each branch; there are also some powers over the other two branches. For instance, the president has veto power over Congress. The Congress has control over the executive expenditure. The judicial possesses the power to conduct a judicial review over the other two branches.

The limited government was created in such a way that it did not pose a threat to the liberties of the citizens. The bill of rights ensures certain rights and liberties to the people. The first amendments to the constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. The United States was founded on the ideals of liberty, equality, and liberty. The free exercise clause is meant to protect each citizen’s right to practice a religion or choose not to practice one. This was established in a judicial precedent arising from the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Bernette (1943).Another case is the Holt v. Hobbs where a Muslim prisoner was allowed to grow a beard as per his religion. Also, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie and Fitch stores, Inc. where a Muslim woman had been denied employment due to her dress code but the court ruled this as discrimination.

Democracy depends on the ability of individuals to talk to each other as well as the dissemination of information. This is guaranteed in the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In The Hague v. Committee for Industrial Organization 1939 case, the court declared that the government might not prohibit speech-related activities such as demonstrations or leafleting. Also in the 2011 case of Synder v. Phelps where demonstrators connected the death of soldiers to homosexuality, the court ruled that it was their freedom of speech. The due process of the law creates the basis for the rights of the criminally accused. For instance, the fourth amendment protects unlawful searches and seizures. The 1961 case of Mapp v. Ohio’s ruling led to the exclusionary rule where the court can exclude evidence that has been obtained in violation of the fourth amendment. The Fifth Amendment deals with court-related rights such as the right to a grand jury. The Sixth Amendment provides for the right to Counsel to facilitate fair trial.

The landmark decision on civil rights is the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibited major forms of discrimination against ethnic, racial, national and religious minorities, and women in voting registration, schools, public accommodations, and the workplace. It is viewed as the law that ended an era of civil rights violations in the US. It was passed by the Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court. These rights can, however, be restricted in cases where they interfere with other people’s rights. This is meant to balance both the interests of the state and protection of individual liberties. This falls under the role of the judicial branch to prevent too much democracy which interferes with state powers.


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