Legal scholar Randy Barnett offer a fascinating section by section reading of the Declaration of Independence, which he says succinctly states the political theory of the American founding. He summarizes it this way:
- The rights of individuals do not originate with any government, but pre-exist its formation.
- The 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 systematic 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.