If we were to strip "Atlas Shrugged" down to its roots, to its base message, it would be a justification on how capitalism is the only moral approach to economics, enabling each individual to reach his full, glorious potential. Although the meat of Rand's philosophy (Objectivism) is concentrated in the 60 page speech by John Galt himself, I feel that the rest of the book is just as important in understanding the effects of a corrupt and derailing society. The more I go back and read my favorite tidbits and paragraphs, the more of Rand's philosophy reaches me, some of which I have trouble condoning myself. The so called "heros" in the story, Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden are cold, tasteless, and self-centered, and yet Rand praises what they do and what they stand for. To me, these serve as the extreme examples for Rand's philosophy, individuals "of the mind". They take advantage of people and situations, because they have the mind to do so. Perhaps it's the contradictory nature of the heros that Rand paints, the unforgivingness of worker failure or ineptitude. I would instead categorize them as "ruthless thinkers". Rand's depiction of everyone else, the "looters", was a concept I could understand and back a little more. .
The looters were the corrupt businessmen and government goons, who wanted to consolidate and distribute the inventions that the "thinkers" had created. Their disregard for the population's opinions (and as the story goes on for their lives) shows the effects that collectivism can have. I feel this is a paramount point, that the individual's right to better themselves to whatever ceiling or goal should not be hindered by rules or by the state. Throughout the entire novel, the looters try to instill that self-sacrifice is noble, self-interest is evil, and greedy producers and businessmen have a moral obligation to serve the "greater good" of society.