In 1993 in Liverpool, England, two ten-year-old boys abducted and murdered two-year-old Jamie Bulger. Could they be held responsible? <br><br>According to one view, they were driven by factors beyond their control, their genetic makeup, upbringing... This view, known as <em>hard determinism</em>, is best summarised by Baron d’Holbach, an 18th century French philosopher, who argued that from the moment of birth Nature commands humans to walk a predetermined line on the surface of the earth without their ‘ever being able to swerve from it, even for an instant.’<sup>1</sup><br><br>An opposing view, known as <em>indeterminism</em>, argues that, while the choices available to an individual are indeed constrained by their personal circumstances, they are always free to choose between alternatives.<br><br>Yet, in <em>Freedom and Belief</em> (1986)<sup>2</sup> the British philosopher Galen Strawson presented a theory, which he called the Basic Argument, by which free will, to the extent it implies true moral responsibility, is impossible, <em>even</em> when an individual is allowed to choose between alternatives. The boys lack free will not only because they did not choose the way they are, their psychological makeup, but because even if they did, one could say their decision is a consequence of a prior self with its own psychological makeup. Thus a further explanation of the origins of the prior self is required.<br><br>Through this argument Strawson shows that to be truly morally responsible for one’s actions requires the completion of a never-ending sequence of truly free decisions, in other words, for one to somehow make themselves the way they are.<br><br>Casting doubt on whether criminals are morally responsible for their actions undermines the very foundations of the institutions responsible for punishing crime. As such, there is an institutionalised and equally powerful propensity to believe that free will exists and that Bulger’s killers are indeed morally responsible.