I’m curious to understand and explore how these ideals of placing the highest importance on human lives and freedom could potentially change over time.
These are inherently contradictory, and I believe that lies at the heart of the social observations you have made. This contradiction, which may have been imperceptible in the past, is amplified and rendered overt by the lever of technology. In the 18th century, for instance, you could give individuals unmitigated access to weapons, and they could not realistically impose a large-scale threat to human lives. We cannot do that anymore in a world with nuclear devices that clock in at around 325 lbs, and certainly not in a future with nuclear devices that weigh 10 lbs.
This extends beyond the obvious example of weaponry into every aspect of liberalism in our lives. Technology levers all freedoms into public dangers the likes of which could not have been imagined during the emergence of liberal political ideologies. Liberalism is simply incompatible with a technologically sophisticated world.
This is why neoliberalism is now a thing. It has stripped away the compassion and importance of human lives and has broadened the freedoms of specific individuals and coalitions to impose costs on said human lives. Liberalism had to morph into something under the strain of technological progress — either something more compassionate or something more exploitative — and neoliberalism, the more exploitative option, is what we have ended up with.