Ok, here's the real deal.
I am tired of seeing people use the following terms incorrectly. There are always comments about our government that we're living in socialism etc. I was once called a communist and a fascist in the same meeting. How could that be possible? Here's my distilled primer:
Communism = bad; dictorial; oppressive; murdered millions of people; far left
Socialism = not necessarily bad but can be misused; on the left; higher involvement of government in society to ensure equal access to services outside of the market's ability.
Liberalism = not bad; on the left; progressive; higher defense of civil rights and civil liberties; cares about the welfare of people and ideas.
Conservativism = not bad; on the right; traditional; higher defense of individual over the collective; higher defense of capitalism and free market.
Libertarianism = not necessarily bad, but difficult to implement; reduction or removal of government from most activities; prides the individual over the collective; swings both left and right based on other philosophies; may be mixing with anarchists.
Tea party = not necessarily bad, but incredibly misinformed; possibly insane; on the right and leaning further. Not enough cohesion to address or solve anything.
Fascist = bad; may include references to Nazi's; National socialism (which is different from actual socialism); reactionary; dictorial; murdered millions of people; far right.