Is It Moral To Use Elaborate Means To Circumvent Laws?

An example: In Japan, gambling is illegal. But you can go to a “pachinko palace”, and change your money for little steel balls. You use these in the machines. Let’s say you win-and you have a lot of these steel balls. You can cash them in for a “prize” (some nearly worthless object, like a stuffed animal.) This you take to an outside establishment, who will “exchange” it for cash. Have you (in fact) actually gambled? Or have you availed yourself of a perfectly legal way to avoid the law?

It mostly depends on whether or not the law itself is moral.

I believe it is immoral to NOT attempt to defy the spirit of almost any law, while keeping all actions squarely within the letter of that law.
That’s just the subversive anarchist in me.

There are gambling joints in the US that are busted for using exactly the same tactic. In that case, I don’t think the law is circumvented at all.

ETA: And I don’t know about tax law in Japan, but I’m pretty sure that in the US, in the IRS’s eyes you haven’t circumvented jack s__t.

Depends on the law and depends on the means

Its not ok, for example, to murder the guy responsible for signing the anti-murder laws

Because morals are personal, differing for person to person ,and are not written down anywhere, by definition, it’s moral to cleverly circumvent, or even blatantly flout laws that would, if you were to abide by them, compromise your morality.

That’s the very easy part of the problem though. Because some laws might be neutral on your moral barometer. For example, a law that says you must apply for a permit before raising the height of your backyard fence. To me, that’s a law with neutral moral value (in most cases! - eg, I was once involved in a case where an increased height would have diminished a neighbors ocean view and therefore lowered their property value, but this is just one example of many such exceptions, so let’s not get bogged down in exceptions please. Let’s assume no neighbors).

Is it moral to flout such a morally-neutral law? My answer is that it is moral to do so, but only if your moral compass already allows for the breaking of morally offensive or morally neutral laws, when appropriate.

But in your pachinko example, I guess you are asking if it’s moral for pachinko parlour owners to operate their business in such a way that they ‘evade’ the laws of the land.

A good question, that I can only answer with - “that’s complicated”.

Complicated because you’ve brought up a real-world example and asked us to comment on the morality of the situation.

But in order to comment on the morality of it you must understand the system as a whole. And I don’t. All I know is that disenfranchised residents of Japan set up illegal casinos, made lots of money and eventually, over time, found ways to make the police turn a blind eye.

Had those disenfranchised not done so, they’d probably be as fucked as they were back then, and still living in poverty.

What do you think is moral now?

Agreed. Maybe that type of arrangement is tolerated, but in the US, you can’t get around gambling laws by using an intermediary device between the win and the money. It’s still a game of chance if you win tokens that can be redeemed for cash.

What is legal and what is ethical are not the same thing. There is nothing unethical about breaking a law itself unless you have the rather simplistic view that the law is the ultimate arbiter of morality.