Bernie Madoff may be a monster, but I am not sure. He may simply have done what people on Wall Street do all the time when they have the chance to get away with it. Madoff may simply have succumbed to the temptation to conceal a loss in the hopes that he could make back the money to cover it before anyone found out. The only unique thing about his case may be the length of time that he got away with it.
Madoff’s approach may not have been all that much different than the thinking behind the current bank bailout. Bank balance sheets are loaded with toxic assets, but mark-to-market accounting has been suspended so that they don't have to recognize the losses and the government is pumping in additional money and lowering the banks' cost of funds in the hopes that they can earn their way out of the mess. Unfortunately, Bernie didn't have the government backstopping his schemes.