During the class discussion led by Ms. Galvez, Marcus cited a short passage from the Declaration of Independence to explain his attitude toward the DHA's extensive surveillance techniques and invasion of privacy, stating that the primary role of the government is to ensure the safety and happiness of the people, and that it derives its authority from the consent of the governed. However, in the next class, Mrs. Andersen, the new teacher, uses another quote from the declaration of independence about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to support her view that the DHA is justified in extensive surveillance.
The interesting thing about this part of the book is that both sides of the argument are citing the same fundamental idea to support opposite positions; central to both passages is the idea that the government's primary purpose is to ensure the happiness and safety of the people. But this idea, while most people agree with it, can lead to drastically different visions of society depending on your interpretation.
Marcus takes the view that the government's invasion of personal privacy through mass surveillance limits personal freedoms to the point that it is nearly impossible to be happy while not meaningfully improving the safety of the people, so the government is failing to perform its primary duty. In contrast, Mrs. Anderson takes the view that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are important in that order. That is, life is more important than liberty, and liberty is more important than happiness, so the government is justified in intensive surveillance to ensure the life of the people, even if it means sacrificing some liberties and happiness.
To resolve this conflict, we must realize that fundamentally, it is a conflict of values. Marcus is willing to sacrifice a marginal increase in safety for his freedom and right to privacy; Mrs. Andersen values her safety to the point that she is willing to sacrifice her privacy and some personal freedoms. I think in the extreme case Doctorow lays out in Little Brother, Marcus is clearly correct; the amount of freedom and happiness sacrificed to the DHS outweighs the tiny increase in safety they provide, but in general, both value rankings are potentially valid, and conversations about how we as a society prioritize our values are essential in settling disagreements and solving problems in the public sphere.