Is the move to more freedom and independent thinking better? That depends. In some cases yes, others no. As to yes or no will vary as to what we think as even that is open to debate. So looking at freedom first (as an overview) from my perspective.
Freedom in any form is something that has been rare throughout history. People have been oppressed by anyone having authority over them. Now we have comparatively so much freedom such as where to live, travel options and discretionary spending. Moral and religious decisions are ours to make without judgement and even persecution.
Is giving the masses freedom a flawed way, that in the long run it will inevitably fail? Expressing freedom that fails to respect the freedoms and feelings of others leads to problems. Selfish expression of freedom gives it a bad name. Responsible 'free people' understand they interact with others, so that affects their use of freedom. They know that being prepared to take others into account is a necessary part of all of us enjoying freedom*. A conscience is a help, provided it has been trained to be selfless and considerate.
In summary: Good moral values and respect for others is essential. Getting everyone to that point would require perfection and none of us can manage that. Therefore rules and the enforcement of them is necessary in any society. We cannot handle absolute freedom. Anarchists may disagree, but we are not up to that level of individual freedom. Only Divine intervention and assistance with our weaknesses would ever get us to that standard. For now a mixture of rules and free choice is as good as it can be.
*For example, I may enjoy loud, late night music and I then express my freedom in that way. However, that impinges on the right of my neighbours to have a good night's sleep. I would therefore take their freedom (to sleep at night) into account in deciding when and how loud I will play it.