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When Government Fails: The Orange County Bankruptcy Paperback – June 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Orange County," writes Mark Baldassare, "is a place that is widely known but largely misunderstood." That's especially true of the bankruptcy proceedings the California county was forced to initiate in late 1994 after risky investments led to a $1.64 billion dollar loss. Baldassare's close analysis of the situation reveals that the crisis cannot, as popularly imagined, be blamed solely on the actions of unchecked financial management. Although the county treasurer's investment strategy was "an accident waiting to happen," Baldassare points to a two-decade trend of voter initiatives to simultaneously minimize tax increases and control the allocation of state tax funds, along with Orange County's political fragmentation, as contributing factors. He also points out that, contrary to its reputation as a stronghold of wealthy conservatives, the county is primarily made up of middle-class suburbanites of moderate political temperament. In other words, Orange County is a lot like the rest of America, and what happened there can happen again. Although When Government Fails, with its historical data, statistics, and surveys, isn't always a lively read, it's a useful one for anybody who is concerned about the future viability of government at the community level. --Ron Hogan

From Library Journal

How quickly we forget: Orange County declared bankruptcy on December 6, 1994. Baldassare (Trouble in Paradise: The Suburban Transformation and Its Challenges, Columbia Univ., 1986), a specialist in urban affairs, presents a scholarly account of how the debacle occurred. Up to this time, bankruptcy or default was considered a possibility only for large, urban New York and Philadelphia or for small, rural locales. Though the county treasurer could be viewed as the prime mover of the tumult, there was a high degree of complicity; local municipalities and school boards sought returns that were by all accounts "too good to be true." As might be expected, shock was residents' initial reaction, but, amazingly, this soon turned to complacency. Baldassare has also examined a number of other issues in this scholarly work of interest to economists, financiers, and politicians. While well written and perhaps the kernel of an interesting screenplay (Jack Nicholson as Bob Citron?), the audience is limited. Recommended for special collections only.?Steven Silkunas, Southeastern Pennsylvania T.A., Philadelphia
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520214862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520214866
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
At the time this book was written in 1998, Mark Baldassare was a Fellow at the Public Policy Inistitute of California. He has also written books such as The Coming Age of Direct Democracy: California's Recall and Beyond, California in the New Millennium: The Changing Social and Political Landscape, A California State of Mind: The Conflicted Voter in a Changing World, etc.

David Lyon (CEO of the Public Policy Institute) wrote in the Foreword, "[the book] is a compelling account of how voters' fiscal conservatism and the pressure for high-quality public services came into conflict. This story is being played out in numerous local governments throughout California... As California legislators and administrators struggle with severe restrictions on their ability to raise local revenues... the temptation to search for 'creative solutions' will only intensify." (Pg. xiii) Baldassare says in the Introduction, "[the book] provides a comprehensive analysis of the Orange County bankruptcy... This book also discusses the larger lessons to be learned from the mistakes made in Orange County and offers policy recommendations for state and local governments to avoid future fiscal catastrophes." (Pg.
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5 of 16 people found the following review helpful By gjg on January 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although informative, the author needs almost 400 pages to say what could have easily been said in well under 100.
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