Constitutionalism: KTB Prep American Government and Civics Series
Constitutionalism is one of five limits on government in KTB Prep’s American Government and Civics series which is designed to acquaint users with the origins, concepts, organizations, and policies of the United States government and political system. The goal is greater familiarization with the rights and obligations of citizenship at the local, state, national, and global levels and the history of our nation as a democracy.
Limits on Government
Throughout history, there have been governments that had too much power and
ended up abusing that power. They limited people’s freedom, mistreated people, and even committed mass murders. In some places, that still happens today. Government isn’t evil—but the people who run governments do need to be kept in check so they can’t abuse their power. There are 5 recognized limits on power in Republican governments our Constitution ensures:
- Rule of Law
- Separation of Powers
- Consent of the Governed
- Majority Rule with Minority Rights
Constitutionalism is a system of governance in which the power of the government is limited by laws, checks and balances, in order to reconcile authority with individual and collective freedoms. Any system in which the government uses its powers in an arbitrary fashion, without respecting the rights of citizens, is not constitutional.
The idea of constitutionalism (and of constitution) is strictly linked with the progress and spread of democracies. The concept has evolved during the last few centuries thanks to political changes and progress of democratic ideals.
A Constitution is a document that contains the basic and fundamental law of the nation, setting out the organization of the government and the principles of the society. The constitution provides the foundation of government, structuring political organization and guaranteeing individual and collective rights and freedoms.
Although many countries have a written constitution, the “living constitution” is proliferating in many parts of the world. Furthermore, in some cases there is no single document that defines all aspects of the state, but rather several different documents and agreements that define the power of the government and provide a comprehensive – although not unitary – legal framework. Constitution has also been defined as:
- Basic norm (or law) of the state;
- System of integration and organization of norms and laws; and
- Organization of the government.
The concepts of constitution and constitutionalism refer to the legal framework of a country. While constitution is often defined as the “supreme law of a country,” constitutionalism is a system of governance under which the power of the government is limited by the rule of law. Constitutionalism recognizes the need of limiting concentration of power in order to protect the rights of groups and individuals. In such a system, the power of the government can be limited by the constitution – and by the provisions and regulations contained in it – but also by other measures and norms.