Hayek liked to view the political spectrum not as a left-to-right line with socialist and conservative poles, but as a triangle. Conservatives were at one corner, socialists at another, and liberals at the third. The terminology has changed a little since Hayek's time. Conservatives are still conservatives, but, at least in the United States, those on the left now prefer to identify themselves as progressives rather than socialists. Most of those who, in Hayek's time and before, called themselves liberals, today prefer to identify themselves as libertarians, or sometimes, classical liberals.
In a famous essay "Why I Am Not Conservative," Hayek identified a number of characteristic tenets of conservatism, including:
- Habitual resistance to change, hence the term “conservative."
- A claim to self-arrogated superior wisdom in place of rational argument.
- A propensity to reject scientific knowledge because of the consequences that seem to follow from it.
- Use of state authority to protect established privileges against the forces of economic and social change.