… is from page 44 of Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett’s must-read 2016 book, Our Republican Constitution (original emphasis):
The political theory announced in the Declaration of Independence can be summed up by the proposition I mentioned above: First come rights then comes government. According to this view:
The rights of individuals do not originate with any government, but preexist its formation.
The equal protection of these rights is both the purpose and first duty of government.
Even after government is formed, these rights provide a standard by which its performance is measured, and in extreme cases, its systemic failure to protect rights – or its systemic violation of rights – can justify its alteration or abolition.
At least some of these rights are so fundamental that they are “inalienable,” meaning they are so intimately connected to one’s nature as a human being that they cannot be transferred to another even if one consents to do so.