For Amy, freedom means two things: civil liberty and control over one's life. Plausibly enough, he finds that expansions of government services have not impinged on civil liberty. "Nearly all of the common activities of the modern state -- building roads and highways, fighting disease, treating sewage, funding basic scientific research, providing medical care for the elderly, preventing crime, supplying clean water, feeding the poor, educating our children, sending out Social Security checks, and so on -- are not inherently coercive or oppressive at all," he writes. In some cases, he adds, the expansion of federal government power has been the precondition for the full enjoyment of civil liberty by people who had been discriminated against by local governments. In addition, he points out that Europeans don't seem short on civil liberty despite proportionately larger bureaucracies and more comprehensive social-welfare programs.
As for control over one's life, Amy observes: "Tea Partiers want to believe that if government were small and left us alone, we would all be freer to control our own lives. But this is often not the case. On our own, we are frequently powerless against the larger social and economic forces at work in our lives. As lone individuals, we are helpless to deal with such things as economic bubbles, worldwide epidemics, soaring college costs, stagnant wages and global warming." Government attempts to master or mitigate such forces, and by giving individuals the means to do so empowers them in a way nature, by comparison, doesn't provide.
To the typical Tea Partier, however, freedom is rooted in nature and can't be created by governments. A TP might answer the preceding paragraph with the observation that the individual obviously can't solve global warming (if it exists) or epidemics, unless he's a unique genius. The individual might be able to save himself, however, and his right to save himself is near the heart of the TP idea of freedom. A Tea Partier might want to deny that individuals are ever so powerless as Amy suggests; if they are, they have their own weakness, stupidity or lack of morale to blame.
I assume that Tea Partiers believe that civil liberties, while arguably rooted in nature or "nature's god," ultimately depend in this world on economic liberty. Back in the Founding era, many Americans believed that a man who depended on another for his survival could not have a mind of his own, or could not speak his mind or act on its promptings if that meant risking the wrath of the other on whom he depended. To the extent that they believe that expanded government undermines economic liberty, they most likely believe that civil liberty will come crashing down after it.
Amy doesn't really address economic liberty in terms Tea Partiers would recognize. The closest he comes to the subject is when he praises workplace regulations and laws legalizing strikes, developments many on the right regard as inimical to real freedom. He seems unconcerned with TPs' almost-defining concern with self-sufficiency (or "personal responsibility") as a moral imperative. What he deems "freedom" they would condemn as dependence upon the state or an entitlement mentality. But if I've guessed their feelings right, the feelings are mutual. Amy closes by dismissing the TPs' idea of freedom as an "illusion."
We would have the illusion of freedom, but in reality we would be more at the mercy of the many outside forces that are buffeting our lives. It would be like being dumped in the middle of the ocean in a row boat and being told that you are now free to go wherever you want. You might be the captain of your boat, but in all likelihood if the storms and the sharks didn't get you, the sunstroke and dehydration would.
Tea Partiers would object to this prose portrait of individual helplessness as just the sort of propaganda liberals spread to make people feel dependent on the state and surrender their freedom. But if people choose "dependence," it's still a free choice as long as they depend on themselves in the form of an accountable representative government. The real issue between Tea Partiers and people like Douglas Amy is that the former see the latter's freedom threatening their own. But can freedom contradict freedom? If two notions of freedom appear incompatible, does that mean one of those notions isn't freedom? That question would probably take more than an election cycle to answer.