I'm a big fan of freedom. But I think the most common analyses of 'freedom' are rather poor, in that they point to something much less important than what I have in mind. The most common conception is probably 'negative freedom' (or "freedom from"), the laissez faire approach, that sees freedom simply as the absense of externally imposed constraints. On this view, you would be perfectly free if everyone else would just leave you alone.
This impoverished view fails to recognise that the whole point of being free from some constraint is to enable us to achieve some goal. What matters is that options be open to us; if removing constraints will enable more options, then we can indeed be made more free by their removal. But it is the 'enabling' that matters, not the 'removing'. If I am stuck in the desert with no water in sight, then I am not free to drink, even if no-one else is around to obstruct me. Natural conditions can obstruct the fulfillment of my desires just as badly as humanly-imposed constraints.
Joel Feinburg ('The Concept of Freedom', chp 1 of Social Philosophy) identifies two distinctions between types of constraints - positive vs. negative, and internal vs. external. Positive constraints are impositions of the usual sort. Negative constraints could be characterized as a lack of something needed. Our goals might be thwarted due to a lack of money, ability, or knowledge, for instance. The other dimension assesses the source of the constraint, as either within ourselves (e.g. mental illness) or out in the external world.
Combining these two dimensions, we find a total of four classes of constraint. The problem with the traditional conception of 'negative liberty' is that it concerns itself only with external positive constraints (such as being bound up in chains), ignoring the other three-quarters of the problem. What we need is a more expansive understanding of freedom, which recognizes all of these constraints. Only then can "freedom from" constraint guarantee us "freedom to" realize our goals. (As Feinburg notes, these are not two distinct concepts, but simply two elliptical forms of a single underlying concept: 'Freedom, from X, to do Y'.)
Next up: the problem with so-called 'positive liberty'.