What Is a Limited Government?

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A limited government is a political system in which power is controlled by a constitution and divided among different entities in order to prevent tyranny. The governments of the United States and other western democracies are based on the idea of limited government.

Limited government as a political value is based on the notion that government, although useful for protecting individual rights, is an inherently dangerous institution that can rapidly degenerate into an oppressive totalitarian regime. The establishment of a formal constitution is one of the most important components of limited government. A constitution explicitly outlines the extent of political power and the duties of public servants. In this way, government is answerable to the people. Limited government also seeks to divide power among different branches - executive, legislative and judicial - as a way of keeping any one political entity from becoming too powerful.