This caused apoplexy in No 10. Brown wanted King to emulate Ben Bernanke of the US Federal Reserve, who slashed rates from more than 5.25 to just 2 per cent in eight months. But King stood his ground, and is right to do so. As anyone who goes to the shops knows only too well, the cost of living is rising faster than at any time in the past two decades. Cutting interest rates now could start 1970s-style hyperinflation.
There has been much debate about the causes of the recent global inflation in commodities, but in the end, in the circular world of economics, it all comes back to housing. It was the attempt by the Federal Reserve to revive the US housing market that ignited the current commodities boom. Its that simple.
In the US, cutting interest rates has actually made house prices fall faster. Pyramid of credit
The recent house-price boom in Britain has also been fuelled by immigration, much of it from Poland. With the British economy weakening and the pound falling in value, however, many eastern European migrants are returning home. There is still a shortage of houses in Britain, but we are about to find that the shortage is not as great as we thought.
Are falling house prices a bad thing? All things being equal, a return to sanity in the housing market is good for everyone, even estate agents. But we are facing a serious economic dis location here, not just a correction.
It was brought about by the astonishing short-sightedness of central bankers and politicians in Britain and the US who kept interest rates artificially low for more than a decade. A huge inverted pyramid of credit was built on top of the expectation of yields from British and US mortgages. Believing that house prices would rise for ever, and that even if they faltered the Bank of England would cut interest rates to reinflate the bubble, the banks began to lose any sense of financial risk, and started to relax credit standards and lend irresponsibly.
In Britain, homeowners are seeing the value of their properties fall at about £2,000 a month at the same time as the cost of living is rising and their wages and salaries are stagnant. Deluded by house prices, British consumers borrowed and spent like there was no tomorrow.
The government is already overdrawn apparently and unable to spend its way out of impending recession.