Limited government is a government outline where any more than minimal governmental intervention in personal liberties and the economy is not allowed by law, usually in a written Constitution. It is closely related to libertarianism, classical liberalism, and some tendencies of conservatism in the United States.
Limited government is a common practice through Western culture. It has roots in Hebraic Law. In Western Civilization, the Magna Carta and the United States Constitution are examples of the limiting of government powers.
Added as an afterthought but today a very key part of the American Constitution is the Bill of Rights. After enumerating specific rights retained by the people in the first eight amendments, the Ninth Amendment and the Tenth Amendment summarily spelled out the principle of limited government. Together, these two last Amendments clarify the differences between the unenumerated (as well as enumerated) rights of the people versus the expressly codified delegated powers of the federal government. The Ninth Amendment codified that the rights of the people do not have to be expressly written in the Constitution (i.e., do not have to be enumerated) to still be retained by the people. In the reverse, though, the Tenth Amendment codified that any delegated powers of the federal government are only authorized to do be performed so long as such delegated powers are expressly delegated to the federal government specifically by the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution is supposed to limit the power of the federal government in five ways. First, it prohibits the government from interfering with certain key areas, such as conscience, expression and association. Secondly, certain forms are established for the dealing of governments with their own citizens: specific actions are forbidden to the government. Unfortunately, it was assumed that the Bill of Rights would be largely self-enforcing, and this solution proved to be inadequate to do more than slow the growth of government. Government powers were expanded, even while following the letter of the Bill of Rights, and increasingly, key elements were virtually ignored.
- Barth, Alan, 1991, The Roots of Limited Government
- Unknown, Limited Government