Getting Rich off Those Who Work for Free

In open-source software and new media, there's big money in unpaid labor

It might seem very odd to look to a long-dead Russian anarchist for business advice. But Peter Kropotkin's big idea--that there are important human motivations beyond what he called "reckless individualism"--is very relevant these days. That's because one of the most interesting questions in business has become how much work people will do for free.

Kropotkin was an aristocrat who, after being imprisoned for his insurrectionist activities, escaped and fled to England in 1876. He also drew the first good topographic maps of Siberia and wrote a memoir of his revolutionary days that has become a minor classic. More to the point, he...