A limited government is less interventionist, restricted by rules and regulations to interfere with people, businesses, and personal lives. But why is limited government important?
The idea of limited government comes from the economic principle of laissez-faire. It promotes freedom with minimal intervention by the authorities.
Constitutionalism allows a society to run freely without much intervention from government powers. Under this system, a ground norm called the Constitution is applied to the whole country.
The Constitution set up a constitutional government with limited powers. However, there are several types of governments other than constitutional governments. Let’s discuss it!
1. Types of Government
There are broadly two types of systems: Limited and unlimited governments, based on the powers they enjoy.
1.1. Unlimited Government
Unlimited governments have immense powers to impose restrictions on their subjects. They have control over all the branches. The implementation body, the law-making body, and the judicial branch.
1.1.1. Examples of Unlimited Government
An individual holds supreme authority in a monarchical government. The king is that single person. The king’s power is absolute power governing the country. It runs three branches and can restrict personal entitlements, asset ownership, and freedom.
Countries may have a constitution but not codified. The United Kingdom has such a system. It is called a constitutional monarchy.
184.108.40.206. Aristocracy or Oligarchy
A bunch of people runs the country under aristocracies or oligarchies. These are the primary leaders having power over the resources.
220.127.116.11. Military Dictatorship and Totalitarianism
A military dictatorship and totalitarian establishment are other forms of authoritarian systems. Here military rules the country with strict laws.
1.2. Limited Government
A limited government means where restrictions are imposed on the government powers itself. A nation having limited government enacts fewer laws and allows a free society. A written constitution defines these restrictions.
A limited government is divided into three tiers with defined rules. These are the Federal government, Provincial governments, and local governments.
The central governments have the power to direct the whole country. However, government control is restricted.
State or provincial governments are limited to a state or a province. They enjoy powers within that state and define rules accordingly.
Local government powers are restricted to a unit of state or province. Some constitutions, like Indian Constitution, have enumerated powers to the local institutions and given them a constitutional status.
1.2.1. Main Functions of a Limited Government
Limited government has a branch system. There are three separate branches. The executive branch will carry out policy implementation work. The legislative enacts the laws, and the judiciary justifies the laws.
This checks and balances system creates an environment of economic freedom, individual liberty, and just powers.
The political dispensation can charge taxes on individuals for national security. However, they are not concerned about the lives and private property of the public.
Citizens enjoy natural rights that are present by being living creatures. The assent of the governed elects a limited government.
1.2.2. Historical Context
The history of a limited government started from the classical liberal tradition in Europe to oppose the monarchial or theocratic systems.
John Locke, a liberalist, wrote Two Treatises of Government. He described that a man living in a state would eventually make a social contract with the state. Government can only do what it is allowed by a man.
The Magna Carta of 1215 is considered the first codified law for this type of government in the United Kingdom. It defined individual rights with limited government powers.
The United States Constitution made further rules to institutionalize the government. It introduced the three branches and the separation of powers concept.
The initial 10 modifications of the Bill of Rights of 1791 restricted the government to a great extent. It also introduced several unalienable rights to the citizens.
2. Why is Limited Government Important: 4 Reasons
It secures the rights of individuals, promotes economic freedom, fosters creativity and innovation, and prevents abuse of power and corruption.
2.1. Protects Rights
Individuals have sanctioned and natural rights. Governments define the sanctioned rights. Some Enlightenment philosophers argued that some rights are natural rights given to people by their own lives.
A limited government protects the rights as they have limited options to do. A constitution restricts the power of limited government power. Individuals enjoy certain fundamental and legal rights in a country.
For example, the US Constitution has the Bill of Rights sanctioning government overreach over rights. These rights include the Right to equality, speech, life, freedom of religion, and a free press.
If the government violates the rights of persons, the judicial branches can stop the government from meddling with the rights.
The American government is a limited government where other branches put a checks and balances system on it. The limited government cannot overpower the constitutional protection provided to citizens.
2.2. Promotes Economic Freedom
The importance of a free economy is very crucial for a nation’s progress. This concept was already known to some early thinkers. Adam Smith wrote a book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, in 1776 to define the policy of laissez-faire.
A limited government lets the market forces, demand & supply, drive the economy. It would interfere to a minimum extent.
A free economy includes the right to set up businesses, engage in trade and commerce, and set prices and wages based on market functioning.
However, the government can interfere when market forces are down. Providing subsidies, incentives to small industries, cheap credit facilities, and promotion of clean energy.
2.3. Fosters Creativity and Innovations
A limited government allows individuals and industries to create new ideas and products. With less intervention, an environment of creativity and innovation can be set up.
Government supports the small players to take up entrepreneurship, set up start-ups, and produce real-life solutions. It holds importance in the development of a nation.
The limited government reduces taxes, minimizes the regulatory framework, and promotes competition. The limited interference allows businesses to compete, making new products.
Limited government also secures intellectual property rights. The American system is strict in terms of these rights. They promote business growth with a sense of security.
2.4. Prevents Abuse of Power and Corruption
A limited government is the opposite of a concentrated government. Abuse of power and corruption occurs when a small group of people attains unlimited power. It affects citizens’ rights and freedom.
Limited government imposes restrictions on government officials by defining their working rules. It ensures transparency and confidence among the public.
An oversight mechanism is set up the limited governments for controlling power abuse. This can be ensured by enacting stricter laws. A checks and balances system is another method to restrict corruption.
Mainly practices like bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, and cronyism are the reasons for unfair practices. To curb these practices, countries need to focus on implementing principles of limited government. It will maximize the people’s participation.
3. Issues with Limited Government
Countries face many issues which are not in the domain of market players. The market forces are run for their profits. However, ensuring the right to food, life, and freedom is not the responsibility of the market.
Here, the need arises for interventionist government power. Whoever faces discrimination, the government can ensure the rights of that person.
3.1. Environmental Degradation
Businesses are run on demand and supply forces. They are not concerned about the environmental harm due to their production activities. However, according to the limited government definition, it cannot interfere to stop these activities.
Stricter environmental regulations are necessary to impose penalties on these businesses. For example, a carbon tax is one such penalty, where they pay tax for their carbon footprints.
3.2. Agricultural Policies
Limited government cannot support sensitive industries like agriculture. These are volatile industries that depend upon external factors like climate. Market forces can ruin these industries.
Therefore, governments provide them with subsidies, credit support, and sometimes waive off loans. Even though this can lead to cheaper goods in international markets, small players need help from the government.
3.3. Small Government
Small government is interchangeably used with limited government. The idea is that a limited number of administrators run the system with low taxes.
However, this can be counterproductive. Low taxes turn into low revenue generation. Low revenue will ultimately lead to low salaries for administrators. They will resort to other sources of income that will promote unfair means and corruption.
Above stated four reasons have answered the question: why is limited government important? It all started with the idea of liberalism originated in Europe. People questioned the government’s control.
It is essential to know that a limited government ensures a free market, and liberal rights to individuals, promotes research and innovation, and curbs corruption.
However, this type of government has some issues. It does not take care of the social side of a nation. Discrimination, crimes, and small industries like agriculture require government intervention.
A limited government is effective only when it has the support of strict laws and some intervention from the government. The welfare of the people requires a mixed form of government control.