With more than 70 years of post-war experience in a wide variety of modern democracies, a lot of things have been tried out in a lot of countries in nearly every domain of public interest, like public health care, pensions systems, handling of unemployment, internal security, education, transportation, energy, consumer protection, laws of labor, etc etc.

Although of course every situation is different and different solutions might apply in any given context, there is consensus imho that some countries do better in some of these areas than others. There also some pretty universal indicators, that together with the financial efficiency can be used to rate every domain. Finally there could be opinion polls in the population on how they judge their own health, education, etc systems in order to rate them in comparison to other countries.

Then the idea is just to copy the more successful systems in one's own country. Domain by domain.

For example there is broad consensus that - France' health care system is one of the best (as stated by the WHO), - Finnish children score high on education assessments, - Switwerland's national railway system is one of the best.

So why wouldn't any country modify their legislation in order to copy French health care, Finnish education and Swiss railways? (Examples might be debatable, but you get the point)

Are there any systematic efforts in politics in any country to learn from other countries and just copy their solutions to domains in the own country where these solutions are applicable and are likely to provide better efficiency or satisfaction?

Why hasn't each country a "Ministry of copying foreign countries solutions"? Why don't we hear more political parties programs say "For [this domain] let's just do like they do in [that other country]"?

The idea is especially appealing for Europe, where there are many modern democratic countries that share a similar development level and face similar challenges, but with a variety of individual solutions that have or haven't worked out in the same way.

  • 2
    Why do you think this does not happen? It is usual to look at other country situations to compare with one's own. A typical example are new constitutions, which often are based in other countries'constitutions. And it is fairly usual in the political debate to defend a measure by claiming that it works elsewhere.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 16:11
  • 1
    For example, when the penalty points in the driver's licence were implemented in Spain, one of the arguments was that the similar systems had led to a reduced accident rate in UK, France, Germany, Italy...
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 16:17

3 Answers 3


Short answer

Obtaining the same best [feature X] of another country is much more than a simple change of legislation, funding and creating some institutions ("form"). It also requires people to be "driven" in that direction ("substance") and dependent features to be at a similar level (e.g. a state-of-the-art railway system requires high-tech automation, so computer science education must be able to provide the required high skilled scientists)

Long answer

This is an interesting question. While I am sure there are much more recent examples, I am thinking about Romania about 150 years ago when it began its way towards West (Westernization).

This article offers a glimpse on how Romania tried to imitate France:

The changes extended to all social aspects, from attire and behavior to arts and fashion. In just one generation, almost overnight in historical terms, the Principalities made “a spontaneous and spectacular turn toward the West”

The phenomenon of assimilating the Western civilization and way of life -after French model- became even more powerful after Romania gained its Independence (1877) (..)

By the beginning of the 20th century, the patriarchal Bucharest had been replaced by ”The Little Paris”.

However, during the same period the "Forms without substance" theory was born:

(..) theory of "Forms Without Substance" that Romanian culture and society were merely imitating Western culture, rapidly adopting forms while disregarding the need to select and adapt them to the Romanian context – and thus "lacked a foundation". Maiorescu argued that, while it seemed Romania possessed all the institutions of a modern nation, all were in fact shallow elements of fashion

So, while copying the form was easy, copying the substance is very hard.

Since then, Romania has faced more about half a century of dictatorship(s) (royal + wartime + communist) and now it is part of EU and NATO.

During the last years I often heard/seen on media people arguing about having a decent health system like in [name any country with a good health system like France, Spain etc.]. Romania actually had a technocrat government for a few months that also started a reformation process (most of the members were summoned from Western EU countries, so they brought knowledge from there), but it was reversed by subsequent governments.

For the particular case of Romania, I believe the following are preventing main parties to suggest such copy processes:

  • fear of change - many politicians understand current working system and are unwilling to advocate the change
  • corruption - the system has a high level of corruption and most of managers are linked to politicians. This is incompatible with Western models.
  • nationalism - there is some nationalist flavor within the main parties [citation needed]

The subject is very broad for a country alone, so for Europe entire books could be written.


This is called conferences.

People from one place host people from everywhere else and they all discuss some particular issue, many of them come home very excited about some particular thing they saw.

The reason to do it by department rather than making a separate department is because the sewer infrastructure people have no idea how traffic calming works and vice versa. The difference between a revolutionary idea and a money pit is only guessable by people who know something about it and we make departments because government is too much for anyone to master all of.

Everywhere at leasts thinks they are different and every human system has critics, so generally ideas are adapted before being implemented in the copying places. But at the next conferences the differences in implementation and effect are discussed and it may be the place that originated the idea adopting variations from one of their copiers.

Also news works this way too. People hear or see something interesting and ask why their government doesn't have that. With good ideas the person answering the phones then asks their boss and democracy happens.

  • Also, commercial interest may have a role. If a business develops some solution that works somewhere, they will use that as part of the sales pitch everywhere in the world ("When London installed our ACME traffic lights, traffic congestion was reduced by 50%. And I heard that your city has traffic congestion problems.")
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 9:07

The problem is that not all of the advantages of Finnish education, French healthcare, and Swiss railways are the results of their respective systems. Some of it is that you are educating Finns, treating people with French nutrition, exercise habits, and genetics, and have Swiss workers with Swiss circumstances.

Switzerland is a small country surrounded by other countries that want to get to each other. This means that their train system serves not just domestic uses but international in a way that coastal Belgium's does not. And Belgium can't just copy that. Switzerland has a population density six times that of the United States. The US can't copy that.

If you compare Finnish educational results to just that of those US areas where poverty was less than 10%, the US system actually gets superior results to those of Finland. Finland's child poverty rate is a bit over 4%, much lower than the US' 21%. It's also worth noting that initiatives like No Child Left Behind are US attempts to make the US school system more like other countries (not everything necessarily from Finland).

Even the governance model may be different. In the US, school spending is mostly split between the local school district and the state. The federal government has more of an oversight role than a funding role. As Bill Proxmire pointed out, US academic performance tended to react inversely to federal education spending. High spending made it worse, while it improved when spending fell or was restrained in its growth.

Why hasn't each country a "Ministry of copying foreign countries solutions"?

That seems the wrong way to go about it. So you'd have this one central ministry or department that would attempt to copy foreign countries. But then you'd have an entirely different domestic ministry or department that is responsible for education, healthcare, or railways. How would the once central organization control the other organizations?

It would make more sense for each ministry or department to source the best ways to do things from around the world. This helps avoid problems like

  • We tried that and it didn't work for us.
  • We're already doing things that way.
  • We considered doing that but decided it wouldn't work.

The first two are signs that the central organization simply doesn't know much about the subject area. The last is a sign that they have failed to be convincing. The "deep state" in the existing organization is attempting to continue doing things the way that they always did.

Even if you restrict things to Europe and ignore the US, systems don't necessarily transfer between countries. Part of Finnish success is the culture around education. They believe in it. However, in other countries, the students are much less committed.

Swiss trains run well in part because the Swiss have an educational system that is compatible with trains. But we're not copying the Swiss education system but the Finnish. The Swiss education system might not score as well academically as the Finnish, but it is better at turning out meticulous craftspeople. To get the same results, we'd have to copy the whole Swiss system, not just parts of it.

  • The last sentence is the most important: You simply can't copy just parts, since everything is connected with everything. France may have a good but costly health care system, and this works because they spend less on education or other areas. Breaking down things into small domains and solve each domain independently may create absurd or forbiddingly costly solutions.
    – Thern
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 7:18
  • @Brythan: Thanks for your answer. The thing about the Copy-ministry wasn't to be taken too serious. I agree that it shouldn't be done that way. Each domain ministry should probably be looking for (better) foreign implementation of their domain solutions on their own. But there should maybe some kind of public incentive to do so.
    – Scrontch
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 7:34
  • @Thern: I see your point about costs, but it is certainly possible to integrate the cost as part of the rating of the system. That is actually what i meant when i was saying (cost-)efficient solutions.
    – Scrontch
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 7:34

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