MORGANTON – This morning I will be in the Caldwell County town of Lenoir, watching the sun rise over picturesque Hibriten Mountain, I wish I could say this will symbolize the dawn of true economic recovery in North Carolina.

But I can’t. Hibriten is 2,211 feet above sea level. Would that we faced such a comparatively gentle climb out of the depths of the Great Recession. I fear that a more appropriate topographical analogy lies to the west of me at Yancey County’s Mount Mitchell, the 6,684-foot peak that is the highest mountain in the eastern United States.

North Carolina is certainly not alone in its woes. The nation as a whole has recovered only modestly from the trough of 2008. Some believe we may be headed into a double-dip recession thanks to the ravages of weather, the rot of the European debt crisis, and the regulatory posture of the Obama administration.

The Greensboro News & Record recently reported on the forecasts of several economists. They were dire:

• It will take until 2020 for the Piedmont Triad area of the state to recover the nearly 40,000 jobs it has lost, estimates Moody’s Analytics.

• The Triad’s unemployment rate won’t fall below 10 percent until 2013, estimates IHS Global Insight, or until 2014, according to Moody’s.

Some areas of North Carolina are more fortunate. The Triangle will probably recover faster, for example. But other areas are even worse off, such as Rocky Mount-Wilson in the east and the Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir metro in which I find myself today.

With their traditional manufacturing industries permanently relocated, these communities are inventing themselves. They are full of committed, talented people. But reinvention is risky, and will take time. They won’t likely return to pre-recession employment levels for more than a decade.

Politicians are always quick to make promises. It’s one thing if they promise to vote a certain way on a certain bill. That’s a promise they can easily keep, and you can hold them responsible for it.

But beware of politicians promising to wave some magic governmental wand and make North Carolina’s economy whole again. Much of what is transforming American and world commerce is beyond the control of any politician. And much of what politicians have done in the past three years, particularly in Washington, has made our economy worse, not better.

Job creation is a side-effect of productive investment. Someone has to be willing to risk capital to start or expand a business venture. That investor or entrepreneur is motivated by the prospect of profitable return, not a desire to employ people for the sake of reducing the unemployment rate.

If you demonize the investor and shackle the entrepreneur, you make it less likely they will be willing to take risks. They can redirect their resources and energies elsewhere, to other states or nations. Or they can put their money in low-productivity instruments such as government debt, signaling their willingness to accept lower rates of return in exchange for lower risk of economic loss or political confiscation.

I know this may sound a bit rudimentary. Doesn’t everyone recognize that without job creators, there are no jobs?

No, apparently not. President Obama, for example, seems willing to blame “millionaires and billionaires” for the nation’s fiscal and economic problems. If he has his way, their taxes will rise and their businesses will be subjected to massive new environmental regulations.

In the midst of such economic misery, these policies are senseless and reckless. Even if Washington confiscated 100 percent of the income of the nation’s richest people, that would constitute only a small deduction from the federal government’s future indebtedness. And no one with the smarts to build multi-billion-dollar businesses will be dumb enough to let the government steal all their money, or even half of all their money, in the first place.

I guess true believers think the Keynesian claptrap they spout is valid. I guess they think government can spend investment capital more wisely than investors can.

They’re wrong – and their errors will make North Carolina’s climb out of recession still steeper.

Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation.