This political spectrum has communism as being to the far left and fascism as being to the far right. The argument is that while liberals are more like communists, conservatives are more like fascists. Part of the confusion on this issue stems from the fact that this political spectrum is actually taught in colleges. However, it is completely false (and I'm certainly not the first to point this out).
The truth is, communism and fascism have more similarities than differences. Both communism and fascism are forms of government that involve little or no freedom of the people. Both forms of government trample on the innate inalienable rights of the people. They also have many other similarities such as unlimited patriotism/nationalism (the country matters more than individuals or their rights), government-controlled media, government control of industry and trade, and lots of pro-government propaganda. Are you seeing a trend here? Fascism and communism are just different forms of overbearing and bloated government. They aren’t opposites at all.
A better understanding of the political spectrum is to rank forms of government by the amount of freedom the people have (or, inversely, how big and powerful government is). So, on this scale we have anarchy on one side and totalitarian regimes (such as communism and fascism) on the other.
Obviously, while anarchy offers complete freedom and no government oversight at all, the people have no one to protect their rights except themselves. It is difficult to protect one's life and property all alone against the rest of the world. One must be constantly ready to fight (think of the Wild West where there was little or no government) and the weak are easily taken advantage of. Thus, people form governments in order to protect their own rights. Anarchy simply isn’t a viable way to live for long.
However, on the opposite extreme we have governments that trample on the rights of the people. In this scenario, the greatest threat to one's life and property is not a solitary criminal but one's own government run rampant and unchecked. A government with unlimited power is even more to be feared than no government at all. At least in the case of anarchy one might have a chance of staving off an attack from lone predators that wish to do harm. But an organized and powerful government is something that no one person can stop.
The question is, what form of government and what level of governmental power is the best balance? The goal is to protect the people's inalienable rights (that is why they need government, after all) in order to promote freedom, not infringe upon it. One must have enough government power to punish and deter evildoers (those that infringe upon the rights of others). However, one must have a small enough government that the government itself does not infringe upon the rights of the people. In other words, you want the balance where people's rights are best protected. Since government out of control is more greatly to be feared than anarchy, the best balance is to have the smallest possible government that can protect the rights of the people adequately. This is also the most efficient use of resources because the smaller the government, the smaller the number of government middlemen that must be paid.
As for modern conservatives and liberals, liberals tend to move toward greater government power and conservatives tend to move toward lesser government power. The only thing we need to determine is which side of that ideal balance of governmental power we are currently on in order to determine which political view is best. Should we move toward greater or lesser government power in order to reach that balance point?
In order to answer that question, we need to first ask, do we have enough government power to provide for the punishment and deterrence of crime and other forcible infringement of rights? In other words, is our government's power sufficient for its most basic and necessary tasks? I believe so. Of course, crime still exists (as it always will), but we do have a government that is capable of investigating and punishing it. And we have a government that is capable of defending from outside invasion by those who would take away the freedoms of the citizens. So while this aspect might need some adjustment in details, government definitely has enough power to fulfill its mission to protect the people's rights. If it is failing to do so effectively enough, it is not from lack of power, but from lack of efficiency.
So, next we need to ask, is our government getting too powerful, infringing upon the people's rights and liberties itself? Yes, we are beginning to see some signs of government abuse of power and infringement of the people's rights and liberties. Therefore, we need to move back toward a smaller and more limited government where the people's rights are more secure and there is greater freedom.