27

In the "Fall of Rio" short documentary about the drug-related violence in Rio de Janeiro, one of the interviewed drug traffickers said he does what he does because due to the terrible government (unclear if he referred to Brazil's, or Rio's local government), the minimum wage is only 25% higher than rent.

A friend of mine suggested a solution to this problem: Brazil/Rio's authorities realizing they've lost control of the situation and "importing" a large set of government officials from a better-run locality, to deal with it. This would be similar to an extent to companies on the brink of bankruptcy hiring external contractors with a fresh perspective to dig them our of the situation. The difference is that the government replacement would be far more extensive than hiring a few technocrats.

Of course, there are a myriad other factors involved here besides the government officials, but I'm curious if this sort of political experiment has ever been tried (voluntarily or not), what the results were, and what was the largest scale at which it has been tried.

  • 3
    Would a technocratic government count? – Steve Melnikoff Dec 17 '19 at 11:02
  • 1
    How would you determine if the "other government officials" were actually better qualified, versus just starting from a better position? "Neither getting any better, nor any worse" would been seen as very different in each country... – Chronocidal Dec 17 '19 at 14:02
  • @DanDascalescu Could you be more specific? Are you drawing a line between "transplant government", "interim government", and governments created as a result of coups and direct foreign interference without necessarily taking the best interest of the main country into account? – SentientFlesh Dec 24 '19 at 1:16
  • @SentientFlesh: since these experiments seem to have been relatively rare, I'm interested in all types. – Dan Dascalescu Dec 25 '19 at 6:12

10 Answers 10

47

The pattern you describe is called colonization. Think of it. A place that is viewed as being "without proper government." Europeans come in, bring their laws and administration, in the hope that the locals will be happier than with their previous rulers.

  • What makes you think that Sweden would want to do it? They seem to be a fan of democracy, all things considered.
  • What makes you think that Sweden could pay for a sufficient number of civil servants, unless they tax the colony to pay for it? Look at the relative size.
  • Then you would have taxation without representation, of course.

Even in cases where it went relatively well, and where European nations still have colonies, this is seen as problematic. In those cases the colonies tend to be so massively subsidized that the independence movements don't get traction.


As noted in the comments, there is also the option of government outsourcing to (foreign) consultants. This is actually quite common, but it usually involves commercial consultancy firms.

| improve this answer | |
  • 22
    As a Swede, Carnival in Rio sounds much more fun than the Boston Tea Party. – gibson Dec 17 '19 at 13:22
  • 19
    On a more serious note, this answer assumes that Sweden would be paying (from their own pockets or by taxing Brazil). One could also imagine that Brazil recognize their own (supposed) incompetence, and pay Swedish government officials to come over and help. This answer would be better if it addressed that possibility too. – gibson Dec 17 '19 at 13:25
  • 8
    Why would you assume the Brazilians wouldn't be represented? I read the question as: The Brazilians recognize they don't know how to run a country well, so they ask some politicians from well-run countries to come and help them. I assume that the reason rent is expensive isn't because the majority of people want rent to be expensive. – user253751 Dec 17 '19 at 15:28
  • 3
    I took the question completely differently - see Radovan's answer. – CramerTV Dec 17 '19 at 16:56
  • 9
    Many 3rd world countries today have officials, even presidents and prime ministers, who were educated in western schools. – Ryan_L Dec 17 '19 at 17:38
33

Ukraine "imported" some high ranking civil servants (ministers) and advisers, in an attempt to fight corruption and bring some efficiency into the administration.

Perhaps the best known is Mikheil Saakashvili, former Georgian president, appointed a Governor of Odessa Oblast in 2015.

The outcome? Mixed. Saakashvili was quite popular and apparently successful, but he was ousted when he started to talk about the corruption of the then-president Petro Poroshenko. Other importees are still active, though they often changed their posts as part of "normal" political life (especially after the 2016 elections) - e.g. former minister of Economy Aivaras Abromavičius (from Lithuania) resigned, claiming the government does not really want to fight corruption, and is now the director general of Ukroboronprom, a defense industry conglomerate; several others are not active anymore.

| improve this answer | |
  • 11
    And which were the results? – gmauch Dec 17 '19 at 15:13
  • 2
    @gmauch Saakashvili was banned from the country for some time eventually, after getting kicked out of his position... – JonathanReez Dec 18 '19 at 1:50
  • 1
    Also Ivan Miklos from Slovakia was "imported" as advisor. – Piro says Reinstate Monica Dec 18 '19 at 5:49
  • 1
    @gmauch: Unfortunately, Saakashvili turned out to be a controversial figure, started doing and saying weird things after a while and lost much of his popularity and credibility. Make no idols. – Violet Giraffe Dec 18 '19 at 8:14
  • 1
    @gmauch The answer was edited. – Fabian Röling Dec 19 '19 at 22:07
24

The UN sometimes manages entire countries.

Here is a link to the administration for Kosovo

And a list of territories governed by the UN

| improve this answer | |
  • Decent example! This happens quite frequently, in a similar manner to how the US government will intervene in State affairs if they go to far. But again, this is an "imposed transplant" while the OP is seeking examples of a "voluntary/requested transplant". – SentientFlesh Dec 24 '19 at 1:20
  • @SentientFlesh I agree some of the UN takeovers are in a greyzone, but e.g. UNTAC was done with the local government and could be an example of a 99% voluntary implementation. My personal oppinion is that many others also is voulentary, but e.g. the mission in Juba, although liked by almost everybody, definitly had resistance in Khartoum. – Thomas Koelle Dec 25 '19 at 15:51
5

The British Mandate for Palestine was an attempt to have a foreign government govern a territory. It is widely considered by the people who live there today (about 75 years after the end of the mandate) to have been a failure.

The reasons for the failure may have been either because the British themselves did not handle the situation properly, or it may be because "government transplant" is itself a flawed concept. I won't list the specifics of the failure here as it would be specific to this particular region, but suffice it to say that even today (seven decades later) the problems that had originated during and because of British rule have yet to be resolved.

| improve this answer | |
  • There have been many attempts by governments to govern foreign territories; colonies, as in the top-voted answer, are the prime example. But the Mandate is not an example of a "government transplant" - if anything, it is more similar to colonization (though it's not the same thing) to the other examples of "transplanted governments" invited by those being governed. – Itamar Mushkin Dec 18 '19 at 9:15
  • Thank you Itamar. The British situation in the holy land was not colonization, as was done in e.g. India, and in my opinion was not even close. The British government was mandated by the UN with administering the holy land in the absence of a local government, even if the local populations did not invite them. – dotancohen Dec 18 '19 at 16:24
  • 1
    League of Nations, not UN. – Peter Taylor Dec 18 '19 at 17:29
  • I know, it's not colonization - but it's closer to it than to any of the "government transplant" examples in the other answers. – Itamar Mushkin Dec 19 '19 at 11:29
5

Not sure that it matches what you are looking for, but Romania "transplanted" a king more than 150 years ago:

The former Domnitor of united Romania, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, had been expelled from the country by the leading noblemen, leaving Romania in political chaos.

Napoleon III suggested Karl, who was the brother in law of Philip. Napoleon's recommendation weighed heavily with Romanian politicians of the time (..) He was elected Domnitor ("Reigning Prince") on 20 April [1866].

This "transplant" seemed to be successful as Romania managed to evolve during Karl (known as Carol in Romania):

In 48 years of rule—the longest in Romanian history—he helped Romania gain its independence, raised its prestige, helped redress its economy and established a dynasty

Also, even nowadays he is still an important figure, as this show placed Carol as the second greatest Romanian of all times.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Not really a transplant, but a good example of an election spurred by a coup - one that actually had some pretty positive results for the country, many of which are touched on in the linked Wikipedia article. – SentientFlesh Dec 18 '19 at 4:47
  • 1
    @SentientFlesh - indeed, he is still considered one of the most important figures in Romanian history. As an interesting coincidence , currently Romania has a German ethnic president, Klaus Iohannis. – Alexei Dec 18 '19 at 7:01
  • As a random coincidence, the poster of the question is Romanian. – Dan Dascalescu Dec 18 '19 at 15:57
  • If you want a less successful example of transplanting a king, there is also King Otto of Greece, who actually was a bavarian prince put into charge of the country after Greece gained independence from the Ottomans. But technically he did not replace a government. – mlk Dec 18 '19 at 18:32
  • 2
    10 places ahead of Dracula, nice. – Artur Biesiadowski Dec 19 '19 at 14:48
4

State takeovers are a thing

Here in the US, cities and smaller municipalities generally have a high degree of functional independence from the states their located in. Occasionally, though, it's obvious that a city is either so badly run that the state needs to assume direct control in some form or another. One example is New Jersey taking control of Atlantic City. I believe Flint in Michigan had this issue, too. This practice is not without critique, but it can solve some potential problems.

Ultimately, though, the people get the government they vote for. If they elect corrupt officials, they're going to pay the price of that.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    And when nobody votes in the corrupt officials, but the corrupt officials take office anyway (because you know, they're corrupt!) who are you going to blame then? – Nij Dec 18 '19 at 22:04
4

What you describe is similar to an Italian "Podestà" from the middle ages where foreigners were hired to govern city states.

The podestà exercised the supreme power in the city, both in peace and war, and in foreign and domestic matters alike; but their term of office lasted only about a year.[5]

In order to avoid the intense strife so common in Italian civic life, it soon became the custom to hire a stranger to fill this position. Venetians were in special demand for this purpose during the 12th and 13th centuries. This was probably due to their lesser concern (at the time) than other Italians in the affairs of the mainland. Afterwards, in a few cases, the term of office was extended to cover a period of years, or even a lifetime. They were confined in a luxury palace to keep them from being influenced by any of the local families

Source: wikipedia, emphasis added

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    They were confined in a luxury palace - how were their middlemen kept from becoming more powerful than the podestà themselves? You know, bringing the right information in, interpreting the orders, certainly being influenced by the local families... – Headcrab Dec 20 '19 at 7:15
2

The "technocratic" type of transplant

As suggested in the comments, another example might be the technocratic Government. Even if this is composed of people with the same nationality, their background is typically different from that of "normal" political government members.

A technocratic government has the following characteristics in common with a transplanted organ:

  • has a big chance of triggering a political "immunity response".
  • also has a chance of improving the overall body functioning. Experience gained in private companies, European Union institutions or other places might prove useful in taking more fact based decisions. Also, they can afford to take unpopular decisions.

Example

Romania had a one year technocratic government in 2015-2016.

Effects

One year is a very short period to initiate and bring to maturity a state reformation. Some reformation was initiated in agriculture and health, but most of it was reverted by the political government that followed.

The social-democrats that managed to win the elections following the technocratic government managed to finger-point the technocrats in relation to some less popular decisions. This was so heavily used that "technocrat" became a pejorative term.

In this particular case, I would say that the "transplantation" was mostly rejected.

| improve this answer | |
2

Sounds suspiciously like countries sending advisers or the british residencies of india and elsewhere.

There's a few assumptions here. That the swedish officials would either be able to do better with the brazillian system of laws and governance than the local rulers or were able to put their own in place. That the populace, criminal or otherwise would accept the rule of these officials and that those folks would have the support and resources to enact change.

Typically in a colonial system, the changes needed were enacted by force of arms and other means. The swedes would not likely want the swedish military playing the role of redcoats.

Practically, without functioning engines of state the best, most effective public servants are pretty useless

| improve this answer | |
0

Why do you assume a government transplant would work? Once you have a dysfunctional pattern in government, politicians and civil servants may very well know how to fix it in theory but be incapable to do so in practice.

Take Greece. Surely someone must have realized that low rates of tax collection combined with high government spendings on pensions and social welfare programs was a slow-moving train wreck. But fixing either the tax collection or cutting spending would immediately run against the vested interests of both constituencies. And in that case, the government directly controlled both levers.

Sure, 25% higher minimum wage than average rent sounds like a mess. The government can decree a higher minimum wage, but a) Brazil most likely has a high proportion of informal/grey market wage earners and b) it would likely be inflationary. Loss of jobs may not be so bad, as recent economic studies have tended to show that you can increase minimum wages within reason and not lose, possibly even increase, jobs.

The Brazilian government doesn't control rent directly in most cases, so the other policy adjustment is missing. There are probably things that could, over time, improve the economic outcomes for both the state and the poor, but they are not easy and would not be popular. Instead, the "solution" was to elect the populist Bolsonaro.

Point is, a country gets itself into a mess little by little, by shortsighted decisions, often meant to buy votes and/or benefit the rich, or at least the middle class, at the expense of the poor. Once different constituencies benefit from the status quo, it is very difficult to take away their advantages. Importing a foreign government would, in my opinion, make it even less likely that meaningful reform could be carried out. Witness the usual outcry whenever the IMF gets involved in reforms of a country's economy. In fact, note that the top-rated answer here calls it colonization despite the fact that colonization was much more about plundering the resources of weaker states rather than improving their government. Finally, you can expect to add another constituency to resist this idea: the displaced politicians.

| improve this answer | |

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .