Could someone briefly explain Ayn Rand's philosophy; objectivism?

I've read "Atlas Shrugged" and would like to attempt "The Fountainhead" soon, but before I do I would like a better understanding of what Objectivism is. Could someone briefly describe the main tenets of that philosophy?

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Is Google broken?

Be your own man.  Don't let anyone tell you different.

In her own words. 

1. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.”
2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.”
3. “Man is an end in himself.”
4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”

In more depth (also her own words)

My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his ownhappiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The governmentacts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_intro

Does conveniently disregard the practical realities of things, and is a bit high on hyperbolic straw-men, but there you go. 

Thanks!! Great summary.

No emotion either.

1.  The Universe gives no fucks.

2.  Figure it out yourself.

3.  Don't be a bitch.

4.  Sell your shit, don't give it away.

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.  - John Rogers

Except I've actually read Atlas Shrugged, not so LOTR.

I find it funny how all the heroes in atlas are noble, brave, honest, etc and all the bad guys (basically anyone in government or working with them) is completely without good traits. The only area where the heroes deviate from our norm of good is that they all like a bit of rapey adulterous sex. I wonder. If this has less to do with making the heroes more in line with objectivism and more in line with Telling us a little too much about Ayn's own sex life.

That is somewhat typical of Rand.  Both heros and villains show the maximum characteristics of the type.  It makes for an easy recognition of the role and easier on the author to develop and write the character.

Rand was not writing a story, she was delivering a message.  As such, there are no characters, only types.  The champion of radical individualism and selfishness herself portrayed no individual characters, only talking viewpoints.

Ms. Rand was a Russian, who grew up during the time of the revolution. She saw what was happening. I agree with Sean, this is a message. It is not really meant to entertain.

Consider this was written by someone who had lived in the USA for less than 20 years, whose native language was Russian and not English. Then consider the precision in which all the words are used. That is another marvel.

One of the reasons why her villains have no redeeming traits is she is trying to point out that a man's philosophy of life makes him who he is...and if you have a philosophy that leads to death and destruction, you are not going to have many redeeming characteristics!

When I lived in an uber lefty area, folks saw Jim Taggart as rather a hero.

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