Mrs Paine is firmly of the opinion that Britain is a lost cause. She and I are old enough to remember the Labour Governments of the 1970's and the chaos they created. We are old enough to recall the humiliation of the IMF sending in the bailiff's men and ordering Labour to stop spending. We recall the hyper-inflation that wiped out our grandparents' savings (and our parents' debts).
We thanked our stars when Margaret Thatcher came along. She applied "good housekeeping" principles to the national economy, to extraordinary effect. At the time, the most extraordinary thing was to realise that generations of politicians had thought it ran on different principles (or - more likely - had not cared that it did not).
For a while, it seemed the nation had woken up from the 1940's fantasy that had seen two generations impoverish their descendants by creating a welfare state which doled out unfunded "benefits".
Yet for all the pain she put us through to restore economic sanity, we have reverted to pre-Thatcher type. The State consumes about the same proportion of resources as in 1978 and employs about the same percentage of our people. To the extent things are different, they are worse. At least some 1970's State employees produced something of value (steel, electricity, cars etc.) albeit very inefficiently. The present lot are mostly about as useful as fleas on a dog. And whoever heard of fleas so bloated and numerous that they weigh more than the dog itself?
It seems that we only went along with Thatcher because we had no choice. Deep in our hearts we still long (for all the evidence of the 20th Century's bloody experiment with Socialism) for a Socialist fairyland where we can spend what others self-sacrificingly earn.
Now, as then, every academic, every commentator, everybody the media might ever listen to, is a Socialist true-believer. To be right wing, as then, is so far out of fashion that even the Conservative leadership has to focus on "social issues". Just as Margaret herself spoke of the "social market economy" rather than the honest-to-Adam-Smith "market economy", so David Cameron speaks of "quality of life" (as if any such thing were in any Government's gift).
All this leads Mrs Paine to think that we are lost. We have learned nothing. We are economically illiterate and naive in the extreme. I refuse to give in to such pessimism. What was done once can be done again. We must learn from Margaret's errors to make sure that - this time - the rules of the game are changed permanently.
Margaret's main mistake was to believe in our institutions. At the helm of our dilapidated ship of state she was such a marvelous sailor that the old vessel answered her every command. But the seas were changing and a new vessel was needed. This she neglected entirely. She had a marvelous opportunity for root and branch constitutional reform. She missed it, and New Labour has corruptly warped our constitution to his own political ends.
A new Conservative Government has a huge task ahead of it. Fundamental reform is needed. We need a democratic upper house of Parliament, with full power to review and improve legislation. Our education system needs radical change, so as to be refocused on developing our brightest and best. Our benefits culture needs to be smashed and the underclass exposed to the realities of life. A massive prison-building programme is required in preparation for the most enormous crackdown on fraudsters - including all those millions "on the sick" indefinitely.
This will cost money. Maybe the Shadow Chancellor is right not to promise immediate tax cuts. But once the members of the criminal underclass have been given a stern lesson that the nation does not exist for their benefit, huge savings should begin to feed through.
It's a huge challenge, but no more difficult than the tasks Margaret Thatcher faced. If the Conservatives fail, then Mrs Paine is right and all sane men should abandon these islands.