What is the Concept of Limited State, and What Does It Mean?June 28, 2021
The effort of individuals to get rid of all kinds of obstacles and restrictions in the negative sense of freedom requires the limitation of the state in two respects. First, the state can undermine the liberal belief that individuals should be free from interference of any kind by placing clear restrictions. As a matter of fact, considering the birth and development conditions of liberalism, it can be clearly seen that the bourgeoisie’s activities to limit the state in practice lead the theory. Second, the state limits natural freedoms by expecting individuals to assume public obligations. For liberal theorists, who show nature as the source of rights and freedoms, there is no direct link between individuals’ use of these rights and freedoms and their assumption of obligations to the state.
For liberal theorists, contrary to Rousseau’s claims (see Rousseau 2004), since rights and freedoms are not acquired through membership in a political society, they do not constitute a duty towards the political society. For this reason, state interventions are considered legitimate only to the extent that they are related to protecting the rights and freedoms in question. In this respect, the liberal state draws the borders of the state with its understanding of natural rights and freedom.
Another way of protecting natural rights and freedoms is the adoption of constitutional governments that require the rulers and the ruled to be subject to the same law in order to prevent the arbitrary administration of the state. While the constitution defines the dimensions of power, it also shows the limits of its sphere of activity.
It is possible to adopt two types of instruments in the protection of constitutional governments. The first of these tools is to make the principle of “rule of law” the main pillar of the constitutional order. Thus, the fact that the laws in which the government’s actions and activities are bound by a higher law appears as a typical feature of constitutional governments.
The second tool for the protection of constitutional governments is the preservation of the distinctions between the legislative-executive and the judiciary, which took its modern form from Montesquieu. The principle of separation of powers is the theoretical expression of institutionalization that prevents the concentration of legislative and executive powers in one hand. From a historical perspective, the principle of separation of powers is based on the idea of ”mixed constitution”, the first applications of which were seen in the Roman Republic. The mixed constitution, which was formed by the Roman Republic to prevent the arbitrary rule of a single social class, functions to keep the interests under control with a balance and control mechanism in the political arena. The idea of a mixed constitution, which was put forward to prevent corruption and arbitrariness caused by the power of a single class, is institutionalized by transforming it into the principle of separation of powers in more contemporary and modern states (Tuncel 2010, pp. 25-26).
In addition to the principle of constitutionality, the understanding of democracy constitutes another control mechanism in drawing the boundaries of state power. The concept of democracy has, of course, gained many different contents and diversified with different applications in its long history since Ancient Greece. Undoubtedly, one of the most successful of these practices is the liberal democracy understanding. The concept of liberal democracy combines the old democratic principle of holding power in the hands of the people with liberal discourse that emphasizes the value of individual freedom and human rights (Tunçel 2010, p. 32).
In this respect, liberal democracies arise from the hybridization of two opposing elements. Democracy, which envisages participation in power on one side, and liberal democracies, which include the understanding of respect for individual freedom on the other hand (Mouffe 2000, pp. 14-15), despite their complexity at the conceptual level and their inadequacies in practice, there is an environment of election and competition between different interest centers struggling for political power. They create a kind of balance mechanism. In other words, liberal democracies create a competitive control mechanism over all parties participating in the race for power.
However, the problem with a competitive and confrontational understanding of democracy is that it contains the threat of “the tyranny of the majority”, which has been seen as the greatest threat to politics since Aristotle. The gathering of individuals with different ideas and conflicting interests turns democracy into the exercise of the interests of the majority. In this respect, the guiding principle of liberal democracies turns it away from the ancient Greek understanding of participatory democracy, which is defined by the participation of virtuous citizens, and turns it into a quest for a quantitative majority.
Moreover, in liberal democracies, political virtue is not an attribute of the individual but of the political mechanism. In the case of a choice where the individual’s interests are defined by the individual’s interests and virtuous action is among different options, the internal motivation to lead individuals to virtuous action is especially lacking in the utilitarian moral understanding of classical liberalism. For this reason, according to liberals, the existence of political virtue is tried to be instilled in the individual through education, which is largely an external factor. Indeed, the leading advocate of liberalism