Immigration: A Lockean Approach

35 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2015 Last revised: 23 Sep 2015

See all articles by Jeremy Waldron

Jeremy Waldron

New York University School of Law

Date Written: May 2015


If states have a right to exclude outsiders from their territory, does this right derive from rights that individuals or informally organized communities might have had in a state of nature? May individuals or informally organized communities use force to drive outsiders away from their vicinity, even when the outsiders are not posing a threat to them, physically, or to their property? This paper defends the usefulness of asking such Lockean questions, because negative answers to them will shrink the space available for real-world defenses of immigration restrictions. It examines possible cultural and economic arguments for the putative right of individuals and informally organized communities to drive outsiders away, and concludes that such arguments do not succeed in establishing any such right.

Keywords: borders, community, culture, immigration, Locke, property, sovereignty

Suggested Citation

Waldron, Jeremy, Immigration: A Lockean Approach (May 2015). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-37, Available at SSRN: or

Jeremy Waldron (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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