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Limited Government

Government has only those powers delegated to it by the people. Several articles and amendments to the Constitution create a limited federal government: one restrained to specific, enumerated powers. This federal system serves as a check on government power. Article I lists the powers of Congress, Article II lists the powers of the executive branch, and Article III lists the powers of the judiciary branch. The structure and purpose of each branch was devised so as to assure checks and balances, which provide another way of limiting government power and potential abuses. The Tenth Amendment notes that the states or the people retain those powers not delegated to the federal government.

However, the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I, Section 8 led some Anti-Federalist critics of the Constitution, including Patrick Henry, to argue that the government’s powers were not sufficiently limited. The Supreme Court has held in cases such as McCullough v. Maryland (1819) that implied powers do exist by virtue of the listed powers. Furthermore, the specific prohibitions against the power of Congress in Article I, Section 9 have been interpreted by some to add weight to the argument in favor of implied powers.