Orrin Woodward on LIFE & Leadership

Inc Magazine Top 20 Leader shares his personal, professional, and financial secrets.

  • Orrin Woodward

    Former Guinness World Record Holder for largest book signing ever, Orrin Woodward is a NY Times bestselling author of And Justice For All along with RESOLVED & coauthor of LeaderShift and Launching a Leadership Revolution. His books have sold over one million copies in the financial, leadership and liberty fields. RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions For LIFE made the Top 100 All-Time Best Leadership Books and the 13 Resolutions are the framework for the top selling Mental Fitness Challenge personal development program.

    Orrin made the Top 20 Inc. Magazine Leadership list & has co-founded two multi-million dollar leadership companies. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of the Board of the LIFE. He has a B.S. degree from GMI-EMI (now Kettering University) in manufacturing systems engineering. He holds four U.S. patents, and won an exclusive National Technical Benchmarking Award.

    This blog is an Alltop selection and ranked in HR's Top 100 Blogs for Management & Leadership.

  • Orrin’s Latest Book

  • 7 Day Free Access to Leadership Audios!

  • Email Me

  • NY Times Bestselling Book

  • Mental Fitness Challenge

  • Email Subscription

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,445 other subscribers

  • Categories

  • Archives

The Athenian Empire & Bastiat’s Law

Posted by Orrin Woodward on December 19, 2012

I love reading history and examining the principles learned from it to the principles I have learned over twenty years of entrepreneurship. The parallels are amazing! In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the LIFE Business was developed by incorporating the proven principles from history. The Five Laws of Decline (FLD) are real and at work within thousands of organization right now. The key is to check them before they rot out the productive capacities of the company or community. In my book RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions for LIFE, I share more detail on the FLD. Anyway, here is a segment on Bastiat’s Law for your reading pleasure. 🙂


Orrin Woodward

Delian League & Bastiat’s Law

Golden Age of Athens

Bastiat’s Law predicts that most people, given an opportunity, will choose the easier path of plunder over the more difficult path of productivity. The allies, jolted by Athenian abuses, were confronted with the new realities of the Delian League when the city of Naxos disputed Athenian control. With Aristides out of the picture, the complaints against Athenian arrogance and mismanagement had increasingly grown among the allies. Naxos, however, was the first to act upon these complaints by withdrawing from the league, terminating its tribute, and removing its ship from the league control in 470 BC. Athens, rather than allowing the independent city to exit peacefully, instead sent Cimon to blockade, siege, and force the submission of the once proud city. Thus, the league’s true colors were exposed, no longer an alliance of equals, but tyranny of Athens over weaker cities to provide revenue for the burgeoning Athenian Empire. Bastiat’s Law predicted that Athens, with unlimited power, would plunder the allies productive resources and Thucydides corroborates it, “This was the first allied State which was reduced to subjection contrary to the league constitution.” Strangely enough, Athens, who had previously sacrificed for Greek freedoms, now, for empire’s sake, sacrificed Greek freedoms for increased power and plunder.

Bastiat’s Law distorted the Athenian leaders thinking. Whereas before they fought to maintain the freedoms of the greater Hellas against the Persian oppressors, given the taste of tributes and unchecked power, they now became the oppressors of Greek freedoms, hypocritically denying to other Greeks what they valued so highly themselves. Author Evelyn Abbot describes the increasing compulsion of Athens over its “allies”:

The Athenians were extreme in their exactions, and caused great irritation by using compulsion upon men who had never been accustomed to endure any hardship. And by this time they were not so popular in the command as they had been. They were not content with their old position as an equal among equals, and they found it easy to reduce those who revolted. For this the allies were themselves to blame. Owing to their aversion to service, which took them from home, the greater part preferred  paying money to providing ships, and thus they not only supplied the Athenians with money to increase their fleet, but when they revolted, they were as deficient in skill as in resources.

Indeed, by providing monetary tributes to Athens, the allies enslaved themselves in two ways. First, Athens enjoyed the extra income to fund ships and men, increasing its power. Second, the allies lost the martial skills necessary to defend themselves. As a result they surrendered control of their fate to Athenian goodwill. The Delian league had transformed into the Athenian empire, held together by force if necessary. Still, Athens justified its power politics when, shortly after the fall of Naxos, the battle of Eurymedon in 466 B.C resulted in Cimon’s forces routing Persia. Eurymedon effectively ended Persian resistance to the Delian league in a decisive victory in which 200 enemy ships were destroyed in a combined sea and land battle.

At any rate, after the battle of Eurymedon, Athens owned the Aegean, like the sea had become an Athenian lake, in which they controlled trade with little external interference. And, even though Athens viewed their success at Naxos and Eurymedon as confirmation of their imperial policies, the allies viewed it  differently. Since Athens now enjoyed unlimited power to plunder allies, it resorted to threats, intimidation, and blockades against resisting “allies” when needed. For example, take the Thasians who rebelled from the league in 465 BC. After a bitter two year siege, Cimon’s ships forced Thasos to surrender. Athens demanded a heavy tribute to compensate for them for the cost of the siege and helpless Thasos submitted to the tyrannous terms. Ironically, the terms of settlement were significantly worse than the Persian had offered to Thasos a generation before. Athens, once the greatest defender of Greek freedoms, was now its greatest oppressor. For, in reality, Athenian freedoms and commerce thrived on the subjection of fellow Greeks. Athens violation of the sovereignty of other Greek city-states earned Athens the contemptible title, “enslaver of Hellas.”  In hindsight, it was this contradiction between liberty and empire that ended Athens Golden Age and ultimately destroyed Greek society.

23 Responses to “The Athenian Empire & Bastiat’s Law”

  1. Kody Ellis said

    Great blog Orrin!
    Key point from what I found: never take the easy way out


  2. Wow! Great story! We need more people understanding these lessons in today’s society!

    The thought that one group of people giving money and resources to enslave themselves still boggles my mind to this day, although deep down I do understand why they do it; they value security more than freedom, and thus they lose both.

  3. jimmy varghese said

    Great line from a Claude cd I think, if you do the easy things now life will get much harder, do the hardest things now, life will get easier, Orrin I appreciate so much the information and thinking you have provided us through the LIFE business! Thank you for all you do!

  4. Ben Zeier said

    Orrin, Bastiat’s Law shows just as clear today in the “entitlement” attitudes of those looking for handouts as it did in Athens so many years ago. I believe that Bastiat’s Law can be broken only as an individual choice to do more to be productive. I for one choose to do more so be that example to my family that productivity is a great path.
    God Bless, Ben

  5. Steve Leurquin said

    “indeed, by providing monetary tributes to Athens, the allies enslaved themselves in two ways. First, Athens enjoyed the extra income to fund ships and men, increasing its power. Second, the allies lost the martial skills necessary to defend themselves.”

    Does anyone else see the parallels? Amazing what can be learned from history!

    • Kevin Hamm said

      Yes, Steve,

      Just wait until someone tries to leave. The response would be no less than threatening. Great teaching again Orrin.

    • Matt Mielke said

      Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The big challenge today is we’ve become so reliant on a central authority that I don’t we know how to govern ourselves. Thanks for the history lesson.

  6. Tim Miller said

    Great post! Love the historical comparisons! Thanks Orrin

  7. Richard Kroll Jr. said

    Orrin, let me see if I understand how to understand Bastiat’s Law, and how it applied in Delian League, in terms of what we see today.

    In a larger sense, many Americans today seem to be satisfied working for others as employees instead of owning their own business. In most cases this allows them to be ‘plundered” of their time, effort and reward in exchange for not having to be as “productive” under the guise of someone else “taking care of them” in exchange for a “safe and secure” position.

    As it relates to our involvement in “politics”, many prefer simply paying greater and greater amounts of taxes to the “state” instead of actively involving themselves in local, state and national affairs in exchange for more and more services and entitlements with the corresponding loss of freedoms and greater dependence on the state.

    Ultimately, as with the Delian League, the people will not have the resources nor the ABILITY to fend off the power hungry state (or their employers) when “reasonable exercise of power” has been exceeded?

  8. Jonathan Brandenberger said

    An institution is,at best, created to perpetuate the values and beliefs of a group or society. When the people of the group or society lose these values and beliefs,the institution becomes the peoples worst enemy. -1913 by Oliver Demille
    This what I thought of while reading this article.

  9. Michael Hartmann said

    Another excellent historical example and study. It seems to me that Bastiat’s Law effectively validates the Cycle of the Body Politic. The Athenians may be the original case study for the various stages of this process:
    Bondage – Faith – Courage – Freedom – Abundance – Selfishness – Complacency – Apathy – Fear – Dependence
    It seems that every step is separated by a single generation. How quickly a nation of people can rise and fall (or, optimistically, fall and rise) is incredible!

  10. Bob Rasmussen said

    Great observation Orrin, it is amazing to me that most people don’t understand that we are wired to plunder or take the easy way, yet the results never are fruitful long term. Thank you for bringing the principles back to the table with the LIFE business!! We have a lot of work to do!!

  11. Thanks Orrin

  12. Robert Daley said

    Thank you Orrin for using some of your time to study the principles that caused such great change in the past ……. And then using your God given talent to share this info with all who want to join you in the quest to make positive changes happen.
    God bless you and your loved ones Orrin

  13. J.J. said

    History doesn’t repeat but, it does rhyme

  14. robert wilcox said

    Thanks for the blog post Orrin. Awesome information and help in understanding more about the Five Laws of Decline. This ties into soo much of what is going on in our country nowadays! I am really thankful for your wisdom and the hunger to learn and then to help inform us about History. I keep asking myself one question though …. How many History teachers discuss something soo crucial in todays society? I hope I am wrong but guessing not enough 🙁 Thank you for your wisdom and guidance!

  15. Lavern mullet said

    Thanks for the history lessons, if we know where we come from we know why and how to move forward to protect what we have. Thanks

  16. Scott Staley said

    So many parallels to today. History does indeed repeat itself if we’re not diligent.

    Great article.

  17. Jonathan Fowler said


    I think I see a deffinite parallel here…the easier path of plundering can be associated to government handouts and the path to productivity can be viewed as the group of men and women who still believe in a free America where government is limited to doing only those things in which the people cannot (preserving life, liberty and the persuit of happiness). I guess it shouldn’t be all that surprising so many are opting for option one. Thank you so very much for once again illustrating the need to change the direction of the current in our failing nation! We can and will make a difference by your great example!!

  18. David Mitchell said

    Thank you Orrin for the parallels of history! I never was much into history in school, and as a result didn’t do well in the course. However, studing leadership has far exceeded my application of yester year. I have gradually become a more attent student of history. Thank’s for helping me to make a diffrence. God Bless!

  19. Marty Becker said

    History repeats itself. We can see this parallel with the passage of the 16th Amendment where the government is violating the sovereignty of the citizens in their individual states to help gain centralization of power. When the history is not being taught the way you and the Life business teach it we will continue to see people hand over more of their money by voting in increased taxes and saying, “feed me, protect me and keep me healthy because we can’t (or won’t) do it for ourselves anymore.”

    Marty Becker
    Alpha Omega J1

  20. Great info! Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady, George Guzzardo, Claude Hamilton, Bill Lewis, Dan Hawkins, and Tim Marks have such great blogs! I love the information being taught in the LIFE business. Can’t wait to hear about the new PC’s and RT’s in the coming months! Thank you!

  21. Michael Stithem said

    I love reading the about history and how men who want freedom fight for it. It reminds me of my current freedoms and what I need to do to deserve to honor those who fought for my freedoms.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.