Council for A Better Louisiana's Barry Erwin, standing, facilitated a panel discussion featuring chef John Folse (with Rhoman Hardy and Scott Woodward, who are not pictured) during the organization's annual meeting in 2022.

As a young diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, Richard Nelson, of Mandeville, saw firsthand the bad results of misgovernment in countries where he lived abroad.

Those experiences prompted one of the best rhetorical lines in his candidacy for governor of Louisiana this year, that if Louisiana were just average among the states of this country, we’d all live four years longer and get a 33% raise.

Good rhetoric, and true enough, but here’s a more practical approach to the same set of problems: “Louisiana can improve.”

Can it really?

Three nonpartisan organizations, not related to any specific candidacy, are pitching that hope in this state election year, when a new governor and Legislature and other offices will be on the ballot this fall. They are selling a reform agenda to the public, but also to those candidates.

The Louisiana Reset initiative, a combined effort of the Public Affairs Research Council, the Council for a Better Louisiana and the Committee of 100, lists 55 distinct ways to do better.

“A long history of poor policy choices created this situation,” the groups declared. “While there is no quick fix, making the right choices can turn this state around. In fact, it is the only way to do so. We need to change how we do business.”

To anyone discouraged by experience — Nelson, age 37, is a state representative who isn’t jaded, we gather — the leaders of the three groups talk up changes that have been made since the first Reset effort in 2019.

The Legislature eliminated, and the public approved, an unusual tax break on state returns and lowered the top rate of income tax, helping with business attraction, the Committee of 100 said. Lawmakers have funded expanded access to early learning programs, with groups like CABL trying to boost quality as well.

We have to start with the youngest learners, as soon as possible, to make a dent in Louisiana’s long-term education deficits, as CABL’s Barry Erwin said when he, Steven Procopio of PAR and Michael Olivier of the Committee of 100 unveiled the Reset program to the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

They’ll also be bringing it out around the state so that the ambitious folks running for the Legislature, and those of us who might vote for them, can hear what could really work. Outreach will be a big part of their effort this year, Olivier said.

We hope so.

Maybe we’re better off than poor Afghanistan, one of the places that Nelson served, but we’ve also got a lot more going for us than such benighted lands. Above all, in America, we’re supposed to be limited only by our energy and the rightness of our goals.

And if we can do many of the 55 items on the Reset list, maybe we’ll end up living longer and making more money.

That’s the American way, but it hasn’t been the Louisiana way, and the latter is what we have to fix.