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Heed the wise words of the elders and you might pick the winner

I'm writing the column this week in a doctor's waiting room. In any other area of human enterprise, it would be called "reception" but then again they call us "patient" rather than "customer" so I guess it's all a plan to get us to live up to our name.

I'm writing the column this week in a doctor's waiting room. In any other area of human enterprise, it would be called "reception" but then again they call us "patient" rather than "customer" so I guess it's all a plan to get us to live up to our name.

There is some strange tribal order happening here. After 45 minutes, the only people who have made it into the inner sanctum are a couple of spritely bods who arrived after me. Is there some medical equivalent of frequent flyers I should have joined, or a secret fast lane for people with fewer than 12 complaints?

With my list of complaints multiplying like the plague, I wander to the pamphlet rack. I feel it might be better to keep moving around, rather than falling asleep sitting up, shoulder to shoulder in a line of people who might be even sicker than they look.

The Botox pamphlet is the standout. It's a beauty ... and apparently I could be too.

Meanwhile, Louise, who is also attending for undisclosed reasons, is slyly slipping Town and Country into her handbag. This is magazine heaven. Where else can you survey the full range of our people's fascinations: smacking tiny white balls with sticks, combining bovine juice for heifers with crushed grass heads and eating the result, turning your driveway into a rainforest? Is there no end to the ingenuity of the masses?

Well, according to our researcher Charlie, the answer is a resounding "no", and it's fully on display during elections, although not everyone sees it.

There is an intangible wisdom within the aggregated diverse positions of our community. The national tally room may have been abandoned because of the innovations of the digital age, but the tally itself is still what it's all about and it does represent a collective wisdom that's bigger than the sum of the parts.

We are governed by the wisdom of the masses and I, for one, am pretty happy with what our people come up with almost every time. This is despite the frantic efforts of the experts, who sometimes seem more like witch doctors than commonsense practitioners, as they sift through the entrails of research and divine new social media techniques.

Extra newspaper editors have been flown in from overseas and Barack Obama's Facebook fixers arrived just as the history-making US President celebrated his 52nd birthday. Interesting how some leaders are only getting started when others have finished; Napoleon died at the same age. In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki argues that the many are smarter than the few and that the value of this is nothing to do with crowd psychology or mob rule. It is a synthesis of individual views that checks and balances extremes while using the insights of all.

And in this campaign, it's the wisdom of the elders that has been underrated.

Charlie's 92-year-old father said 10 months before John Howard lost: "You know son, I think he's been there long enough." And so it was. Now he's saying, "I don't know about this Abbott, but we'll have to give him a chance."

With a third of the population over 55, Charlie's dad tops out the largest voting group of all ... and it has already decided it wants change. So as the experts are rolled out over the next four weeks, they need to be careful they don't fall into what has become known as "groupthink". It was this syndrome that led to 99 per cent of economists failing to see the global financial crisis coming.

The masses are already well ahead of the game. And they are not like politicians. They are long on feelings and short on the gab. And the more the politicians and the experts roll out reason after reason for possible voting patterns, the people just shrug and say, "Oh well, that's just what I think."

So that's it for the next four weeks. Abbott will win, Rudd will lose. Game over.

Oh, I see after 55 minutes I don't have to be patient any more. My doctor is ready to see me. I feel better already.

Harold Mitchell is an executive director of Aegis.

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