What is Limited Government? - Definition, Principle & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 0:24 Principle
  • 1:05 Examples of Limited Government
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kamshia Childs

Dr. Childs has had a career in Education for thirteen years. She has 11 years of experience teaching grades 4-8, and presently works in Higher Education. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, and a Master's and Doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction (Reading and Language Arts).

This lesson will provide insight on limited government and its principles as well as give some examples of limited government in society. Read on to learn more, then take a quiz to test your knowledge on limited government.


The term 'limited government' is often confusing. For instance, when you hear 'limited,' you might think that the government is limited entirely in what it is able to do. However, the definition is a bit more specific than that. A limited government is a system in which the primary leaders have very little governing powers over the decisions and laws that are created without approval from other branches or leaders within the government.


Democracy is the root of a limited government. Within this system of government, powers are delegated or distributed so that one leader or group of leaders does not have too much influence or power. Essentially, this type of government is in place to provide residents of the country individual freedoms and protection of private property.

Power is not the ultimate goal in a limited government. A limited government is structured to keep peace among all parties involved in the government. In a limited government, the people who create the laws must follow the laws, and the citizens have choice in who becomes a lawmaker. They do this by electing officials and representatives. A constitution generally holds this type of government accountable.

Examples of Limited Government

Any country that has a democratic governmental system is an example of one that is a limited government. Many countries throughout the world have a limited government, and a few examples include the following:

  • United States
  • England
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Mexico
  • Australia
  • Japan

The United States is one of the most well-known examples of a country that uses this type of government. The limited government of the United States is split into a system of checks and balances so that the branches within the government have shared responsibilities and one division does not become more important than the other.

The checks and balances system in the United States distributes powers.

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