"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.