An aristocratic nation is one in which an affluent minority, often but not necessarily associated by birth lines, enjoys both economic and political power. Aristocracy was a common form of rule until the early 20th century, when countries started establishing governments that more closely resemble democracies.
Aristocracies first rose to prominence during the Middle Ages, when wealthy land-owning families began intermarrying in order to protect their estates. By marrying within their own circle, they were able to usurp power and make laws that protected their wealth and position. By establishing bloodlines and then laws governing inheritance, nobility was able to ensure their fortunes stayed within their families.
Although nobility still maintains social prominence in many former aristocratic nations, many of them have little involvement in government affairs. England is one such country in which the royal family act primarily as figure heads, while parliament manages the government.
Some believe the United States has become an aristocracy due to the fact that the majority of wealth and power is held by an elite few. There are few laws in America, however, that dictate inheritance or the way, as well as to whom, money can be passed when an individual dies. Also, the United States does not recognize any formal nobility through titles.