[Dixielandjazz] Gunter's Challenge

Edgerton, Paul A paul.edgerton@eds.com
Thu, 12 Sep 2002 16:55:13 -0500

Bill Gunter wrote:

"I'd love to see a lawyer go on record claiming it's illegal for me to hand
out my business card. Hah! On the other hand, it's also my understanding
that lawyers are liable to say just about anything."

I would bet that somewhere there exists a lawyer who is ready to take up
this question and pursue it to its legally binding conclusion. While it's
clear you are not invoking the "the system" to answer this question for us,
too many people do. This dependence on the legal system is what has led to
our contradictory morass of legislation, regulation and case-law that makes
it difficult for even the more educated among us to know what we must or
must not do.

Now, my response to your challenge...

You may well be within your "rights" to promote yourself on somebody else's
time. Likewise, your musical services are employed on an at-will basis,
meaning you could be fired without reason. These two freedoms evolve from
the same principles of individual rights, as you have stated.

But as every Kindergartener learns, actions have consequences. As others
have said, reasonable men have an expectation that while you are in their
service you will not compete with them in the same arena. Those who do so
earn contempt, typically reducing their opportunities. If you engage in
behavior that the community finds offensive, their response is usually to
withdraw the benefits of community membership. In other words, make the
other kids mad and they won't want to play with you anymore.

In Bob Romans' scenario, the club owner told the bandleader about it,
implying that he didn't approve of the sideman's actions. A reasonable man
wants to look good to a prospective employer. He would ignore the prospect's
impression of him at his own peril. So he might elect not to exercise his
"right" to promote himself while serving the interests of another.

A reasonable man would consider the possible outcome of alternatives before
setting out on a course of action. He would weigh the possible damage to his
reputation and future employability against the possible benefit of booking
a gig. Sometimes, the basis of law is purely what others in the community
think is acceptable. The purpose of the law is to codify the underlying
social and metaphysical principles so that all may know them.

I know that you, Bill Gunter, care very much what your community thinks of
you. I suspect that you wouldn't violate this "unwritten rule," even as you
defend you right to do so. I also know that you value logic. Anytime you
encounter contradiction, including an apparent is-ought dichotomy, check
your premises.

Paul Edgerton