There are all sorts of analogies I could use for my oddball optimism at this particular moment in history -- creative destruction (John Tanner in Man & Superman: "Construction cumbers the ground with institutions made by busybodies. Destruction clears it and gives us breathing space and liberty"), spring cleaning, etc. But the analogy that resonates with me are those Western pine trees that need fire to reproduce.
For all our talk of a global economy, our economic "system" is a cobbled-together jumble of new technologies and old rules, of fresh opportunities and outdated restrictions. We could talk about many of them, but let's just look at two well-known examples.
It's generally understood that newspapers (at least American metro newspapers) are in dire straits, and we're currently involved in a debate that supposes that the decline of the nation's newspapers will mean the decline of journalism as a public good. As a former newspaperman with lots of buddies still in the trade, I can testify that those guys are generally unimpressed by my suggestion that we should save their careers by hastening the demise of their metro-daily employers
Besides, they argue, none of the known web-based new-media business models generate enough cash to support quality reporting. If any of those new business models were any good, they say, we'd already be investing in them.
But this is where the pinecone-in-the-forest-fire analogy comes in handy. Because there are workable business models for Web-based journalism. The problem is that they won't take root and thrive until the fire burns off the undergrowth, prepares the soil and provides them a chance to compete. The biggest brake on media innovation isn't lack of ideas or some missing business model, it's that failing old media companies continue to occupy the big ecosystem spaces where innovation is most needed.