I have a differing opinion on Silk Road. I think it could actually benefit Bitcoin in some ways if Silk Road was gone because it would remove a lot of the negative image that Bitcoin has. To think that it would have some kind of crushing effect to the Bitcoin economy is ridiculous in my opinion. Even if Silk Road is the number one merchant site in the Bitcoin economy it's still a relatively small site.
Everyone knows Bitcoin's price is not supported by commerce, with or without Silk Road it makes no fundamental difference. What it is supported by is trust and belief. Investing and speculating. That is what the current Bitcoin price is mostly about and I really can't see how Silk Road gone would change things for the worse. Most Bitcoiners do not use Silk Road nor have they ever used it, it was a huge hype boost to the last bubble but newsflash: that bubble has burst already.
In fact as a starting Bitcoin enterpreneur and someone who believes that Bitcoin can make a difference in legal commerce I would definitely not mind if I had one less negative publicity issue to worry about when marketing Bitcoin.
I understand your thoughts and agree with a lot of points you made. I sincerely hope Bitcoin is successful in the long run just for the simple fact that it is an easy, cheap, and increasingly simpler way to send money to people around the world, whether it is for family/friends or as a means of a transaction. I do think if SR disappeared it would have a negative affect on BTC exchange rates at least in the short term.
As for the long term I think something would pop right up to replace it. So although you would like to have less negative publicity around this subject, it will always be around due to the anonymous nature of bitcoin, since anonymity is something that goes hand in hand with the black/grey market.
You did make a very good point that made me think; perhaps Silk Road was just a catalyst in Bitcoins inevitable(?) rise and that the investing and speculating surrounding BTC is a signal of just how much people believe in it. Regardless I believe discounting SR like it is nothing is a mistake and that traders/speculators should at the least keep an eye on it.