This article returns to the Ricardian tradition of understanding income distribution as the outcome of an “antagonistic” conflict with a multiplicity of actors and struggles, where history, politics and institutions matter as much as economic “fundamentals”. Because this relates to the political sphere, there are no purely logical solutions to the conflict, but rather options in a scenario of multiple equilibria. In deregulated markets, this conflict favours the supremacy of unproductive rent (especially those of “inefficiency”), to the detriment of operating profits, affecting investment and productivity growth. Moreover, dysfunctional institutions have the “ability to persist”, thus transforming the domination into a “stationary process”: the unbalancing impacts of shocks have only limited lifespans. When, in democracy, the Latin American oligarchy limits change and weakens the State through Buchanian-style constitutional straitjackets, they redesign their distributional strategies and absorb elements of opposing ideologies to keep their own hegemonic.