The distinction between formal and substantive interpretations of rights, to me, is very important in deciding the interpretation of the right.  I think there is a case to be made that you ought to choose the substantive interpretation.  By way of example, lets choose the group of African Americans who live in the post-Jim Crow United States.  Statistically, while they are not formally denied legal equality, and their right to life, liberty, and property is formally protected, statistically many factors in their life reveal unequal treatment.  The formal right is protected, but evidence suggests that their right is not respected.  Where does this difference come from?  It seems that having a formal interpretation of rights applied in a condition where the individuals are on unequal footing does nothing to equalize their footing;  there must be a principle of rectification of wrongs and a realization that unequal footing makes formal rights meaningless.

Lets take, however, the private ownership of capital as an institution.  Perhaps we will assume the starting gate theory in its most egalitarian; a group of people are going to have their initial shares of social resources equalized, and after that point they will have laissez faire control over what they do—there are no limits, because (in theory) as resources were equalized fairly, who can object to what anyone does, or what the results are of what anyone does?  This prima facie seems to account for the substance of my critique, in that it levels the playing field.

But regardless of the equality of the starting point, every time someone purchases something by which they will make money, i.e. capital or land, and it is protected by society, it creates a new starting point, because the conditions that arise are solidified and the options of the rest of society become importantly restricted.  Purchase of capital creates a differential of power and privilege that changes the rules of the game in practice from then on out, and puts individuals on unequal footing from that moment on.  In short, private ownership of capital seems to make rights merely formal for the same reason that African Americans are only formally equal; systemized differential power and privilege translate into differences in the respecting of rights.  Private ownership of capital systemizes differential power and privilege.  So essentially, private ownership of capital translates into differences in the respecting of rights. 

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